In Peter’s first letter to the church in Asia Minor, he spends a significant amount of time calling believers to holiness. And in perhaps the most encouraging passage in the entire epistle, he makes a statement that rings with identity for the church. It is my favorite passage in this letter.
See it for yourself in 1 Peter 2:9-10.
In these two beautiful verses, Peter gives some very specific and very encouraging descriptions of the people of God. This passage stands in direct contrast with those who do not believe, and who will stumble over the cornerstone that is Christ. Here, Peter describes the church in some of the most descriptive of terms, and does so using imagery drawn from the Old Testament, from the nation of Israel, who was also God’s chosen people.
Peter uses five phrases here, which we will look at in turn, drawn from two passage of the Old Testament, Exodus 19:6 and Isaiah 43:20-21. These are both passages that Jewish Christians would have been very familiar with, but Peter’s main audience may not have been, being primarily Gentile. Both of these passages speak of God’s great desire to redeem his people, and provide for his people, in return for their faithfulness and obedience. Peter ties them both to the people of the church, and does so beautifully.
A chosen people
Jesus is the chosen cornerstone in verses four and six. And calling the church “chosen” is no coincidence. The union of Christ and the church extends this description to his bride. But it goes beyond just this as well. God chose Israel to be his people, but also to be his servants. He has called the church also to be his and to serve him willingly.
A royal priesthood
This is an interesting phrase. A priesthood refers to a religious setting, but the term royal adds a surprising element. God’s people are a priesthood that belongs to a king. One of the key elements of the Old Testament priesthood was access to God, on behalf of the people. But now, all believers have that access, as all believers are a part of that priesthood. But no longer is a sacrifice of atonement needed. The high priest, Christ himself, paid that once for all.
A holy nation
Just like the Old Testament nation of Israel, the church has been set aside as a special people, given the great privilege of serving God. Israel was set apart in ways that the other nations were not. So also is the church. I find it interesting that the Greek word used here is ethnos, denoting “people” or “nation.” However, this nation is not based upon ethnic or geological boundaries, but upon our commitment to the King of kings.
A people belonging to God
This phrase speaks to the ownership of God over his people. The church is God’s special property. We are precious to him. And we are the objects of his love and care.
The final phrase that Peter uses here is also from Isaiah 43, and yet it doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of the previous descriptions. But the church has been called out of darkness and into his light. We have been commissioned to declare his praises. Just as God called out his people from slavery in Egypt, and later from Babylon, so also he has called us out of slavery to sin.
In verse 10, Peter uses a collection of phrases, mainly from Hosea 2:23, to drive home this description of the church. In Hosea, God declared:
I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called “Not my loved one.”
I will say to those called “Not my people,” “You are my people”;
and they will say, “You are my God.”
Peter does not directly quote this passage, but he does use very similar language to Hosea. And his point is very clear: By God’s mercy, we are now God’s people. This fact was intended to strengthen the people of Asia Minor as they faced severe persecution. God was not just the God of the Israelites, he was, and is, also the God of the church, even though they were Gentiles, and he had chosen them to be his own people.
And this fact should bring strength to us in our times of struggle as well.
Question: When you face difficult times, does your life still continue to display the wonderful deeds of God to the world around you? Does it display such things when things are going well? You can leave a comment by clicking here.