Marvelous Lights (1 Peter 2:9-12)
March 1, 2019
Throughout the scriptures we see God desiring to have a relationship with mankind and dwell with them. It may be hard for us to fathom that God wants to be our God and have us as his people. God’s people in the Old Testament did a terrible job fulfilling what God desired and we read of their destruction. But we also read about a new people that God would create. Books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah all point to this new people becoming what God always had in mind from the beginning. I would like for us to begin this series by looking at two passages that show a contrast between God’s people in the OT and God’s people in the NT.
Isaiah 29:13–14 (ESV) — 13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, 14 therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
Ezekiel 36:25–27 (ESV) — 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
In the texts we will study this week my goal is to see how the NT writers say that we are this renewed people with a new heart. Tonight we find that Peter describes us as God’s people in 1 Peter 2.
1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV) — 9 But 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. 10 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.
Three Descriptions of God’s People
In this text Peter describes for us what God’s people look like by calling them chosen, royal priests, and holy. What do these things mean and do we see ourselves this way?
A Chosen Race for his possession
First we see that God has chosen his people. It is interesting that from the beginning God has this desire to choose mankind out of all creation for the purpose of bearing his image. He wanted mankind to talk with him and he wanted to bless mankind in a way that they never deserved. In the OT it seems that God chooses Abraham and that he will show some bias toward the descendents of Abraham who had not even been born yet. But Israel was not the people that God had in mind when he made these promises to Abraham. Paul tells us in Galatians and in Romans that the offspring of Abraham is not dependent on ancestry but on those who follow the faith, hope, and love of Abraham toward God.
God does not choose his people based on their skin tone or based on who their father is. He has no concern for physical, external, or earthly measures. His measurement is like Samuel’s selection of David. He chooses based on the internal. He provided a gospel that weeds out those with a heart that is proud and those who are merely focused on the external. The truth of the cross seems like foolishness to those who do not have the right heart (1 Cor 1:20-25). This is his way of culling out the insincere. There may be millions of people who go to church and call themselves Christians, but God knows those who are his.
God calls them his possession because he is not willing to share his people with the world. He wants to be their only God and he wants them to recognize that they are special to him. He treasures them as his own. They belong to him. He loved them enough to pay a very costly price to redeem them from the world. That also means that they must consider themselves as belonging to God.
Second, we see that God’s people are considered a royal priesthood. What does he mean when he says royal? Who is the ultimate king of the universe? Jesus is king and he is not ashamed to call his disciples his brothers (Hebrews 2:11). He even encourages his disciples to call God their Heavenly Father. So the relationship to the king elevates God’s people with a position of power. They are princes and princesses in God’s family.
Being royal is joined to the idea of being priests. The priests in the Old Testament were those who were allowed into the holy place. Jesus has torn the veil of the temple in two so that God’s priests under the new covenant may enter into the holy of holies (Hebrews 9:24, 10:29-22) and offer their own spiritual sacrifices as Peter pointed out in verse 5 of chapter 2. God’s priesthood was also assigned the task of bringing the people to God and bringing God to the people. They offered sacrifices and they taught the word of God to others so that they could be what God wanted them to be.
Throughout scripture God makes a big deal about holiness. He often kills people in judgment because they fail to consider his holiness and become obedient to his will because he is not like other gods. He wanted his people to set him apart from all other gods and anything they had ever known. God wants to treat his people this way. They are to be a holy nation that is set aside from all other people to receive the blessings that God wants to give them. They are called to be different in the way they live so that the nations might see their goodness and their purity. This godliness is intended to proclaim the excellencies of their God. God’s people show the world how holy God is by being holy themselves.
Do We See Ourselves As God’s People?
The idea of being God’s people may be common to us and we understand some aspects of it. But do we see ourselves in all of these descriptions? Do we fit in with these descriptions? Don’t we have to in order to be God’s people? Let’s look at each of these again while considering what we need to do in order to fit these descriptions.
Were We Chosen?
Multiple times in the New Testament there is a reference to God’s people being “elect” or “chosen” by God. These people are not the chosen at random to be his people but God chose the type of people who would be his. Peter mentioned this in chapter 1.
1 Peter 1:21–22 (ESV) — 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
We believed and humbly submitted to doing the will of God. This is what God is after. Jesus laid this out in the Sermon on the Mount by saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” etc. God has chosen to save based on the internal criteria of the heart. He has clearly stated throughout scripture that he is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble. Is that me? “Yep. I’m the most humble person in the world.” God wants a people with a tender heart and a desire to do his will. We must lay down our pride and submit to a life full of faith, hope, and love. We must choose to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and we must love one another with sacrificial love.
Being God’s people is not a matter of the externals. It’s not about where you come from, what your cultural background is, or even about what we sacrifice to serve God. It is about the internal.
Do we desire to belong to God? If we are God’s people, we have faith in the God of the Bible. We desire to know him and to find out more about who he is and what he has done for us. If we are God’s people, we ought to feel like God’s chosen people. We should find encouragement because God has done all of the things written in this Bible to bring us into a unique relationship with him. He considers us unique, chosen, set apart, and special to him. Look at Isaiah 44:3-5. In this text God foretells the time of blessing his people and he says that they would respond by proclaiming that they belong to God.
Isaiah 44:3–5 (ESV) — 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. 4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. 5 This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”
Let’s all go get tattoos. Not really, but we see the idea is that God’s people consider themselves as belonging to the Lord. My hands are God’s hands. My feet are God’s feet.
Are We Serving As Royal Priests?
How are we going to respond to this great gift of God. How are God’s people who rely on his mercy supposed to live? He says we are to live as “royal priests” and “proclaim the excellencies of him.” Is this the way we view ourselves? The idea of being royal priests is such an interesting illustration for us. This is a combination of ideas that we don’t see in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the whole nation is called a kingdom of priests in Exodus 19:6. But only descendents of Aaron were actually able to draw near to the temple. As far as kings go, only the line of David was considered to be of the royal line. But we are called royal priests. Each of us are princes and princesses who also serve in the temple of God. What a neat thought. The writer of Hebrews combines these two when talking about Christ as high priest after the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7.
This means that we are able to draw near to God. It also means that we are given power in this world to overcome darkness and spread the Marvelous light of God. He talks about this idea of overcoming darkness and spreading God’s light a lot in this passage. In verse 9 he says that we are proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his light. Then in verses 11-25 he explains what this looks like. We don’t have time to look at all of those verses, but check out verse 12 to get the idea.
1 Peter 2:12 (ESV) — 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
This is a description of our priestly service and our spiritual sacrifices. We seek to do what is honorable among everyone all the time. Not just when it is convenient, but even when they mistreat us. Notice how he puts this, “When they speak against you as evil doers.” Those who live in the light will be spoken of as evildoers. Why? Because those in the darkness hate the light. The light exposes their evil deeds. It is a foregone conclusion that God’s people will suffer in this life. But we still overcome the darkness by doing what is good and refusing to give in to our desires for evil.
Can you imagine someone wanting to have you thrown in prison for telling them abortion is wrong? Can you imagine them causing you to lose your job, your family, or your home? The world is becoming an increasingly hostile place against Christianity as it has been for much of time. When they mistreat us we will want to punch them in the face, threaten them, insult them, or at the very least rebuke them. But Peter says, “Keep your conduct honorable… so that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” This is how we proclaim the excellencies of God. We reflect the mercy we have been given by taking up our cross and following Christ.
Do We See Our Need For Holiness?
When we think about holiness we are reminded of the words of Peter quoted in 1:15-21. Let’s read that together.
1 Peter 1:15–21 (ESV) — 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
The whole basis of this holiness is the precious blood of Christ that is able to cleanse us of every sin as we humbly approach God’s throne with humility. We are holy because we must be holy in order to be God’s people. We are to be holy because God has said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” We cannot go on sinning that grace may abound. We cannot allow willful, rebellious sin in the camp. We are God’s holy people.
God has made a way for us to be holy and he expects us to stay that way. He expects us to look at holiness as a requirement for the Christian. Our holiness is a reflection of God as we bear his image. Now, does that mean that after we rise up out of the waters of baptism we never sin again or that we are given some miraculous power over temptation? Of course not. But the mercy of God has got to make an impact on our heart. “Once we were not a people.” We deserve none of the blessings that God has desired to give us. “But now we have received mercy.” Notice that it does not say, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you were not good enough, but now you are good enough.” It describes us as a holy nation who belongs to God because God was willing to forgive us even though we did not deserve it. He is only looking for our humble submission. Now look at where he goes after this in verse 11.
1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) — 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
In verse 11 Peter urges God’s people to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against their soul. What does “passions of the flesh” include? Some translations call this “fleshly lusts” and others call this “worldly desires.” It sounds very much like a sexual sin and we might be tempted to say that is all Peter is referring to. But like the works of the flesh in Galatians 5 Peter is talking about passions and desires that are much more broad than just that. Look at 1 Peter 2:1…
1 Peter 2:1 (ESV) — 1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
These are the things that are waging war against our soul: Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. How many of us think twice before having malicious feelings toward someone who mistreats us? How many of us refuse to lie, but have no problem deceiving and bending the truth to get our way? How many of us are living a life that is inwardly unholy, but outwardly appears righteous? God wants us to abstain from all sin. That is internal and external sin.
We are called to be the people of God. We are called to be the people God has chosen out of the world to live holy lives for him. We must see our lives as not belonging to ourselves anymore. We belong to God. It’s not about me, what I want, or how I envision my life. It is about helping others to see the glory of God and bow down in worship to him as I do that myself.