Folks go to great lengths to display who they are. The clothes they wear, the way they walk, the jewelry and accessories they choose to wear or not wear, even the words they use tells the story of who they are or who they want to be. There’s no single source for this identification, it could be our heritage, our career, our hopes, our likes, and even our sins. Possibly even some grand combination of rebellious convention. Who we are, who we think we are, and who we want to be, are important. In our next step through 1 Peter we are given four identifying realities with a single purpose.
Welcome to the tenth installment of our Walk Through 1st Peter series. If you’ve missed any of the previous articles, they can be found on our website – lambchow.com. Peter has just discussed the cornerstone of Christ and our part as living stones. The final verse talked about the fate of those who rejected Christ as their cornerstone. Today’s verses are connected to that observation with a simple “but.” Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10, NASB95)
But You Are
Peter identifies four things that describe those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus. Remember that Peter is writing to a group of folks that are feeling the sting of persecution and rejection. But this is not a pep talk to make them feel better. Peter is reminding them about the realities of who they are in Christ.
When we think of “race,” we think of skin color, places of origins, and heritage. In the Old Testament, we watch as God continually deals with a chosen race of folks. Even today a proper Hebrew can identify their heritage down to which son of Jacob they belong to. See Paul’s description in Philippians 3:4-5. But Peter’s “chosen race” is not based on heritage, geography, or skin color. Christians are said to be born again, the chosen race are all those that have accepted the truth of the gospel and live by it.
Peter goes on to declare that Jesus’ followers are a “royal priesthood.” The only priest that comes close to also being royalty in the Old Testament is Melchizedek during the days of Abraham (see Genesis 14:18 and Hebrews 7:1-17). His priesthood is different than what later came through Aaron and Moses. The law of Moses separates the roles and responsibilities between the ruler and the priesthood. In the kingdom of Jesus, there is no such separation of powers. Also, Peter doesn’t indicate that being a royal priesthood only applies to some of his readers such as the elders, pastors, or priests. All Christ followers are part of the royal priesthood. As John Wimber said, “everyone gets to play.”
The third part of who we are is a “holy nation.” Holy, set apart and being sanctified. When Moses constructed the tabernacle everything from the outer walls to the utensils used in sacrifice were set apart and declared holy. They may have been common items, but now they were dedicated to an uncommon purpose. In the same way, followers of Christ are just common everyday folks that have been dedicated to an uncommon purpose.
Peter’s final identifier is that Jesus followers are a people for God’s own possession. As Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NASB95) Peter is reminding us that although we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, we must avoid getting puffed up about it. We must remember that all of this is because of Jesus, He paid the price. We belong to God and must exercise being a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation with humility.
Peter identifies a single purpose for those who are in Christ, “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are witnesses to God’s grace, goodness, kindness, and love. Yes, dark things may have happened to us. Yes, we may have spent years doing our own thing. But something radically changed when we stepped into His light. For some, it was like we went from a dark cave to noon on a clear day in the blink of an eye. For others, it has been a slow fade to white like the breaking of the dawn. Either way, God’s light in our lives changed us.
Those changes in our lives, attitudes, and desires reflect the excellencies of God. Our job, our purpose, is to declare, publish, and proclaim all the wonderfulness of God that we have seen and experienced to others. There is something about the human spirit that loves stories. We don’t need to become master debaters able to blunt every objection to faith. We don’t need to become theologians able to lay out the deep things of God. All we need to do is tell the stories about how our lives have intersected God’s story.
Everyone has this purpose. We all like the parts about being chosen, royal, and holy. They make us feel wanted and powerful. Like the twelve disciples, we have been sent out. Maybe to some far off land but most likely to the people of our own world; in our home, in our workplace, in the marketplace, and everywhere else our feet may go. Some may be called to loudly proclaim the story, but most of us will be heralds to one person at a time. Quietly showing and telling our story about the awesome love of Jesus.
Lastly, we are a people marked by mercy. It’s important to note that Peter uses words that indicate community in these verses. Everything above is designed to be in community.
We tend to personalize faith to the point where we each belong to a church of one. But the history and language of the Bible are both personal and community at the same time. One can not exist without the other. It may be a personal faith, but it must be exercised in community and in the world. Being in community requires mercy. We have received mercy, and the result is that we are now a people of mercy. Mercy doesn’t just bring us into community it keeps us there as well.
“you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”