How many different kinds of people have you associated with this week? Are your co-workers similar in their identity or radically different? How do you identify yourself? By your job, profession, where you live, your travels, passions, age, ministry, or education? The growing trend of identification by sexual orientation showed up in a medical form I completed for a new medical appointment yesterday. The choices were so many that, even with the smaller font, they took up two complete lines, vs. “check male or female.” But nowhere on the form was there a place for me to check off “child of God” or “believer in Jesus Christ,” or even “religion.” Maybe if there had been that, I would have remembered, even very early in the morning at a new practice, to say more about my Savior. Not that I am trying to excuse myself, but I confessed to God upon driving away that I forgot to mention my endearing relationship with Jesus or God’s help with my circumstances. My relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation for any ministry I undertake for the good of the body of Christ, for my personal consultation with physicians, and other personal matters. We know that God mercifully transforms us believers into the light and into a royal priesthood and a holy nation to proclaim his excellencies. We know that we are blessed by God’s mercy and light to be God’s royal, holy family, making known his wondrous love, providence, and works. The apostles who wrote the New Testament don’t let us forget that we have these blessings to draw others into God’s glorious kingdom, his family, and his divine plans. Our blessings are designed to make us different so others will notice something peculiar—God at work in us—together as his family.
Chosen to Be the True Israel
I keep landing in 1 Peter now that I’m studying to lead a Bible study in that epistle. Do you appreciate how the Holy Spirit uses our regular studies, sermons, and messages in Sunday school, podcasts, and articles and books together to enlighten and convict us? God also uses our Christian family to encourage, strengthen, and embolden us. Peter writes, “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 marvelous 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.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) “Peter views the church as a new Israel, for he picks up what is said of Israel in Exodus 19:5–6 and applies it to the church. The church is a royal priesthood and God’s holy nation. As God’s chosen ones, Christians are to proclaim the excellencies of the one who summoned them from darkness and ushered them into his marvelous light (Isaiah 43:20b–21). Peter alludes to texts in Hosea that refer to Israel (1:6, 9, 10; 2:23) and sees them fulfilled in the church.” (1) In Romans 11, Paul has described “true spiritual Israel,” which is differentiated from physical, political Israel. “All Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'” (Romans 11:26-27) God mercifully brings believers into the true Israel, a royal priesthood and a holy nation. God’s mercy and light bless us to be God’s royal, holy family, far greater than a single nation. His family includes all believers who have ever lived, who live now or will be born anywhere in the world in the future before our Savior returns as the Judge.
Chosen to Be a Peculiar People
“God’s eternal election [of believers] is the source and spring of all spiritual blessings…being not only brought into the Gospel dispensation, the kingdom of the Messiah, and having a right to all the privileges and immunities of it, but have also the kingdom of grace set up within them, or grace, as a reigning principle, implanted in them; which lies not in anything external, but in righteousness and true holiness, in inward peace, and spiritual joy; and they have the power of kings over sin, Satan, and the world; and the riches of kings, being possessed of the riches of grace now, and entitled to the riches of glory in another world; they live like kings…are attended on as kings…and hereafter they shall reign with Christ on earth…and they are ‘priests,’ as well as kings; being made so by Christ, and through his priestly office; are anointed with the Holy Ghost, and sanctified by his grace, and allowed to draw near to God, and offer up by Christ their spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise…God’s elect are a peculiar people, to whom he bears a peculiar love; they are chosen by him to be a special people above all others, and have peculiar blessings bestowed on them, and peculiar care is taken of them; they are the Lord’s, his treasure, his jewels, his portion and inheritance, and therefore he will preserve and save them…whom God has obtained, procured, and purchased for himself, with the precious blood of his Son…redeemed and purified.” (2) We are blessed beyond our understanding. Although “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) What it means to be in God’s family will be revealed to us fully when Christ returns, and we live together in the New Jerusalem. We have a taste of it now.
Our New Identity As God’s Possession
God called us “out of that darkness which the Jews were particularly in, in and about the coming of Christ, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and the spirituality of the law…out of this darkness, as well as what is common to men, in a state of unregeneracy, having no sight of themselves, their sin, and misery, nor knowledge of divine things, of God in Christ, and of salvation by him, and of the work of the Spirit upon the heart, they were called, into his marvelous light: by which they saw the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the insufficiency of their righteousness, their need of Christ, and salvation by him…Before conversion, they are not a people formed by God for himself, and his praise; nor Christ’s willing people, either to be saved by him, or to serve him…but are now the people of God…they have the witness of the Spirit to their spirits, that they are the people of God.” (3) “At one time, a man or woman belonged to a certain city and family, a certain social group and guild…roles and livelihoods were set from birth or adolescence. Today, we have multiple jobs, even multiple careers. All of this erodes confidence in our identity…We define others—and let others define us—by our strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. So we live with the pressure to perform. We are measured and measure ourselves by this, even though so much rests on forces far outside our control…In Peter’s day…it was especially painful for Gentile converts who were reviled for leaving old customs and associations; they lost much of their identity. Further, in following Jesus, the Gentiles choses a leader of dubious paternity from an impoverished city. He was a landless artisan and untrained itinerant preacher who died by public execution. But the Father reversed all that and crowned Jesus with honor by raising him from death. Now, Peter says, those who follow Jesus receive his honor…When we trust [him], we share his honor and join his family. That is where we must find our identity.” (4)
This morning I enjoyed a conversation with a neighbor who wanted to discuss the need for a men’s Bible study in our community. I am grateful for the opportunity to tell him that, as the women’s Bible study leader, my most important source of help and guidance is the Lord–not my needs, great ideas, or desires. If we remember to define ourselves as God does, we will be more true and secure, liberated from self-inflicted doubt or shame. Finally, we remember that each calling and privilege comes from faith in Christ. We are God’s chosen ones, living temples, royal priests because he is all these things first. He is God’s elect, the Priest ‘who combines in His person royalty and priesthood.’ All his privileges become ours as our faith unites us to him…The privileged state of God’s people leads to privileged action. Because God has redeemed us and we are his, we are heralds who ‘declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light’…Let the contrasts resonate: once darkness, now light; once alone, now in God’s family; once awaiting judgment, now receiving mercy.” (5) “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Related Scripture: Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15; Isaiah 43:20-21; 61:6; Malachi 3:17; Acts 20:18; 1 John 2:12-13; Revelation 1:5-7; 5:10.
1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Peter 2:9-10, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
2. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 1 Peter 2:9-10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-peter-2.html
3. Gill, ibid, 1 Peter 1:9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-peter-1.html
4. Doriani, Daniel M., 1 Peter—Reformed Expository Commentary, Pages 73-75, P & R Publishing, 2014.
5. Doriani, Ibid.
June 9, 2022