“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Peter now moves back to the believers after briefly addressing the unbelievers. He calls them a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people of his possession. These phrases are full of Old Testament references for God’s chosen people, Israel, that now belong to the church. Let’s look at each one.
First, he calls them a chosen race. In Isaiah 43:19-20, we see Israel referred to as a chosen people. Wayne Grudem writes this in his commentary. “God has chosen a new race of people, Christians, who have obtained membership in this new ‘chosen race’ not by physical descent from Abraham but by coming to Christ (v.4) and believing in him (vv. 6-7).” We also need to remember that this was always part of God’s plan. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4-10 about God choosing us before the foundation of the world to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ. Verses 7-10 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.”
Peter writes that we are a royal priesthood. He had already written that we are being built to be a holy priesthood, now he adds royal to the title. I wrote about the priesthood of believers in the post on 1 Peter 2:4-6. Our job is to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus. The priesthood was once descended through the line of Aaron. Now we are the royal priesthood, with Christ the King as our head.
We are a holy nation. That title once belonged solely to Israel. In Exodus 19: 5-6 God says this: “’Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.’” Now, that title belongs to the church. Sometimes we forget that our citizenship is not here. We think that God is going to set up his Kingdom here on earth. There is a group that believes that our job as Christians is to take back the government and set up God’s Kingdom here on earth today. Gotquestions.org has an excellent article explaining Kingdom Now theology: What is Kingdom Now teaching? | GotQuestions.org But Jesus taught that we belong to a Kingdom that is not of this world. He says this in John 18:36. “’My kingdom is not of this world,’ said Jesus. ‘If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’” Paul writes in Colossians 3 that we are to set our minds on things above, and then in Philippians 3:19-20 he writes, “Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame; and they are focused on earthly things. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” I am in the middle of reading Alisa Childer’s book “Live Your Truth and other Lies” and I just finished the chapter about this. She had a section about these verses. She writes, “…Peter explains that we see ourselves as exiles so that we may ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (verse 9). In other words, we have great news to share about a much better world that God is inviting us into.” Our citizenship is in heaven!
And lastly, Peter writes that we are a people of his possession. When Peter wrote this to the church in Asia minor, I would imagine that the church took great delight in this. In Deuteronomy 7:6, it says this about Israel. “For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be his own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.” Now this is being said about the church!
Peter uses these comparisons of Israel to the church. Grudem writes this in his commentary. “Similarly, God has redeemed Christians not out of Babylon but out of darkness and called them to himself, taking them not back to Jerusalem but into his marvelous light.” Why did he do this? So that we may proclaim his praises! This echoes Isaiah 43:21. “The people I formed for myself will declare my praise.”
When I was in elementary school, the church I attended had us learn the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We only did this for a short time, and that’s a shame, because there is such a richness there. The one thing that stuck is the first point. “Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Today we have made our faith all about us. What do I get out of worship? What can God do for me? What does this verse say to me? Instead, we should be worshiping God even when we don’t ‘feel’ it. That is when it is a sacrifice of praise. I like what Mike Winger says in his video preaching on this. You don’t have to feel it. You don’t have to fake it. You need to faith it! It’s the same thing when we read the Bible. We try to put ourselves in it. How does this apply to me? Instead, try reading the Bible to see what you can learn about God. Psalm 115:1:
“Not to us, Lord, not to us,
but to your name give glory
because of your faithful love, because of your truth.”
He called us out of the darkness into his marvelous light. Just like he called the Israelites out of Egypt (and then Babylon), he has called us out of the darkness. In Isaiah, God promised this. “I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not abandon them” (Isaiah 42:16). Paul describes it this way. “… giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:12-13). Then he tells us this: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light-“ (Ephesians 5:8).
In verse 10, Peter alludes to the prophet Hosea. Sam Storms, in his commentary on 1 Peter for the Gospel Coalition, explains it better than I can. “Here, Peter adapts the story of Hosea and Gomer and applies it to the church (cf. Hos. 1:6,9; 2:4,23). Such is the power of saving grace that those who are by nature outcasts and alone (not a people!) have now, because of God’s mercy toward them, become ‘God’s’ very own ‘people’.”
This wraps up the first section of Peter’s letter. He has shown us who we are in Christ. We are holy, set apart, chosen, a royal priesthood, and our purpose is to declare his wonderful deeds. David Guzik writes this. “Since it is true that believers have a new life principle (chosen generation), a new access to God (royal priesthood), a new government (holy nation), and a new owner (His own special people), it will affect the way the believer lives life.” And that is what we will focus on next!
Grace be with you!