COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." (1 Pet 2:9-10)
There are two things that are consistently found throughout the writings of the Apostles. First, an emphasis is placed upon Jesus Christ-who He is, and what He has accomplished. Second, there is a declaration of who we are in Christ Jesus, and what we were outside of Him. It is particularly the latter that is now expressed by the Spirit: who we are in Christ, and what we were outside of Him. For your reference, similar passages include Romans 6:17-20; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:1-13; 5:8, and Titus 3:3-7. Faith will never take us beyond the vivid recollection of what we once were. Nor, indeed, will it fail to take into account what we have been made in Christ Jesus. These two perspectives help to maintain humility and hope at the same time. They also move us to cling to the Lord with purpose of heart, knowing that of ourselves we are nothing. These two emphases-who Christ is and who we are in Him-are not common in our day. Yet, you will find they still exercise a great influence upon the soul. They provide a contrast of conditions that only God could accomplish through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and through our faith.
WHAT WE ARE IN CHRIST JESUS-THE CORNER STONE
"2:9aBut ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . . " KJV The Spirit has already affirmed marvelous things about the saints. They are: (1) Elect, 1:2a (2) Sanctified by the Spirit and sprinkled with Christ's blood, 1:2b. (3) Begotten by God to a living hope by Christ's resurrection, 1:3. (4) Have an incorruptible inheritance reserved in heaven, 1:4. (5) Kept by the power of God, 1:5. (6) Are being purified by trial, 1:6-7. (7) Have been redeemed, 1:18. (8) Believe in God by Jesus, 1:21. (9) Have purified souls, 1:22. (10) Are born again of incorruptible seed, 1:23. (11) Are living stones, 2:5a. (12) Are built up a spiritual house, 2:5b. (13) Offering acceptable sacrifices to God, 2:5c. Now the Spirit will elaborate further on our condition. He will contrast the saints with those who, by appointment, stumbled over the Corner Stone (7-8).
CHOSEN GENERATION. A generation is a group of related people. Some versions read "chosen race" or "chosen people." This is a view of God's people in the aggregate, or in totality. It compares with Israel of old, who are also a chosen people (Deut 7:6; 14:2). They were a fleshly people, the saints are a spiritual one. They are a different kind of generation, being Christ's own progeny. While He had no offspring in the flesh, He is an "Everlasting Father" in the Spirit (Isa 53:8; 9:6). By saying "chosen," the Spirit means these are the people upon whom God's favor rests. They are HIS choice. There are benefits that belong to them that pertain to no one else. This casts to the ground the "we are just like the Israelites" imagination. Here is a generation that has been adopted, and has received "the Spirit of adoption" (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). They are GOD's choice.
ROYAL PRIESTHOOD. Like the Levites of old, these have been appointed to Divine service. They do the work of the Lord, labor together with Him, and come into His presence to minister. By saying "ROYAL priesthood," the Spirit accentuates our kingship in the Son (Rev 1:6). This contrasts with the description of Israel: "kingdom of priests" (Ex 19:6). The emphasis there was separation to God. The emphasis here is participation with God. This is a new phenomenon among the sons of men. Of old, no priest was also a king, and no king was also a priest. In fact, some priests were judged for assuming the role of leader (Korah, Num 16:1-32). Also, some kings were judged by God for assuming the role of a priest (Uzziah, 2 Chron 26:18-19). But the saints are both kings and priests. They reign with Jesus, and offer spiritual sacrifices to God.
HOLY NATION. Not only are the saints "chosen," they are also "holy." They are a spiritual nation of "holy" people. They have been called to lead pure lives. As it is written, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"NKJV (Eph 1:4). We have been delivered to serve the Lord "without fear in holiness and righteousness" (Lk 1:74). God cannot be served by unholy people! That is one of the reasons for the Lord Jesus. An unholy church is a contradiction of terms. Here is a nation among nations - a "holy nation" among corrupt nations. Let those who are prone to glory in a nation, glory in the "holy nation," which is the church of the Living God. The choice of God is only evident where the people are "holy."
PECULIAR PEOPLE. "Peculiar" does not mean odd, unusual, or weird-although that is how the world regards believers. That particular trait is meant by "strangers and foreigners." "Peculiar" means "special"NKJV, "God's own,"NRSV or "for God's own possession."NASB One might say "peculiarly His." Thus God takes out of the world a people for Himself (Acts 15:14). Clearly, He does not view all men alike! There is a body of people that He favors above all others, and for whom He has reserved the choicest blessings. Inherent in the word "peculiar" is the concept of purchase. In fact the word means "purchased possession." The concept is mirrored in Israel (Deut 4:20), and declared in Ephesians 1:14: i.e., "until the redemption of the purchased possession"(the same word).
Note that these are not objectives to be realized through our efforts, but blessings that have been conferred upon us. This IS the status of those who are in Christ Jesus. The recognition of it stimulates our faith, fortifies our hope, and enhances our joy and peace.
OUR APPOINTED PURPOSE
"2:9b . . . that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."KJV Here is the reason God purchased a people, reserving them for Himself. It was not simply that He felt sorry for us, and rescued us like one would recover a drowning man. Our deliverance was driven by a Divine purpose. We are the ones who "show forth the praises of Him." This speaks of a strong affirmation of God's workings. Other versions read, "proclaim the praises of Him,"NKJV " proclaim the mighty acts of Him,"NRSV "declare the praises of Him,"NIV "proclaim the excellencies of Him,"NASB, and "declare the wonderful deeds of Him."RSV This is precisely what took place on the day of Pentecost. Word got around of a most unusual phenomenon. "We do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11). Religious sophists have drawn attention to the speaking in tongues. The Spirit draws attention to what they were declaring. They were telling the people "The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad" (Psa 126:3). In particular, what He has accomplished in His son, and how His Son has been exalted to give repentance and remission of sin (Acts 5:31).
God did reveal this mystery to the Apostles, who were responsible for laying the foundation (Eph 2:20; 3:5). But He has chosen a spiritual nation to declare those praises. He only makes provision for insightful praises-everything else is spurious and unacceptable. In a day when praise and worship are being mimicked and emulated, this is something that needs to be clarified. The word to all who are unregenerate and blind is, "let all the earth keep silence before Him" (Hab 2:20), and "Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD" (Zeph 1:7), and "Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD" (Zech 2:13). Only those who are chosen, royal, holy, and belonging to the Lord can show forth, or declare, His praise! They have been chosen to do that. It does get down to the personal level also. Our commission is much like that given to the former demonic of the Gadarenes, "tell them what great things the Lord has done for you"NKJV (Mk 5:19). This is nothing less that accounting for the distinctions that grace has made in us, and giving an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15).
God has drawn us out of this world to show Himself to us, that we might declare His greatness. This is chiefly made known in "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim 2:10). While men choose to be specialists in various fields of human knowledge, God has separated a people to Himself who are specialists in the knowledge of God-people who are acquainted with His ways as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Our exit from the realm of spiritual darkness is traced to the call of God. He "called us out of darkness" through the Gospel (2 Thess 2:14). Elsewhere the Spirit says that we were not only in darkness, we ourselves were darkness: "you were once darkness" (Eph 5:8). That was a state of alienation from, and ignorance of, God. Our works were then associated with that moral and spiritual darkness, reflecting our hostility toward God and ignorance of His ways (Rom 13:12). Such works are "unfruitful" and to be thrust from us as defiling and totally unacceptable (Eph 5:11). A persons "work" reflects where they are, whether in the darkness or in the light.
But we have not only been called out of darkness. We have also been called INTO His "marvelous light." This is the "light" in which we can "see light," or behold the nature of all things (Psa 36:9). It is a reflected light, beheld in Jesus Christ. In Divine power, God burst through the stifling darkness, showing Himself and delivering us. As it is written, "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ"NKJV (2 Cor 4:6). This is a "marvelous" light, or illumination. It captures the heart and is perceived as worthy of intense attention. It is beyond human comprehension, but not beyond the grasp of faith. The "marvelous light" is what draws us into the heart of God's will. It dispels any notion that something better can be possessed, dwarfing all competing influences.
THEN AND NOW
"10Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."KJV In order to confirm that salvation is wholly of the Lord, the Spirit shows us two mountains that are as far apart as Gerizim and Ebal, from which the blessings and cursings of the Law were read (Deut 27:11-13).
PEOPLE. Let us have done with theological generalities that view all men alike, or affirm that God recognizes everyone. Prior to our regeneration, we were "not a people." The spirit now speaks in the words of the prophet Hosea. "For you are not My people, And I will not be your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There it shall be said to them, 'You are sons of the living God'" (Hos 1:9-10). This referred to the Jews in particular, to whom Peter was writing. The same point, however, is mentioned later in Romans (9:25-26). There is it applied to the Gentiles. The point is that in a state of nature, people are not recognized in heaven. They are "not a people." Such have "no hope, and are without God in the world" (Eph 2:12).
But what a change has been wrought in the "chosen generation." Now they are, in truth, "the people of God." They are the ones upon whom His eye is focused. They are the ones to whom His ears are open (Psa 34:15). This is a transition from rejection to acceptance, and alienation to reconciliation. They are not A people of God, but THE people of God. God's power is toward them (Eph 1:19). He has reserved an inheritance in heaven for them (1 Pet 1:4). He has assigned them to be custodians of His truth (1 Tim 3:15). They are to be envied above all other people!
MERCY. Here the Spirit affirms that our acceptance as a people is strictly owing to the mercy of God. Prior to being in Christ we "had not received mercy."NIV Our sins were not forgiven, and the devil himself worked in us. We had no promise for good, no intercessor in heaven,, and no Holy Spirit within. All of that is involved in NOT obtaining mercy. Stated from another viewpoint, the wrath of God was "abiding" on us (John 3:36), and we were "condemned already" (John 3:18). Again, the appeal is made to the words of Hosea. "And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they shall say, 'You are my God!'" (Hos 2:23). Paul spoke of this glorious transaction on a very personal basis. "Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief"NKJV (1 Tim 1:13).
We must associate our salvation with the wonderful mercy of God. The word "mercy" emphasizes God's compassion and pity. It is more than a mere emotion, involving HELPING the afflicted, like the good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37). "Mercy" includes the idea of kindness, benevolence, and generosity. Mercy is what moved God to change our nature and condition. As it is written, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit 3:5). This was no small amount of mercy, but a lavish pouring out of it. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again"NKJV (1 Pet 1:3). It took that kind of mercy to save us. That is how far we were from God! No wonder the Spirit associates God's purpose with God being glorified "for His mercy" (Rom 15:9).
But this mercy is ongoing, just as being the people of God continues. Because we are now the people of God, we can continue receiving mercy. As it is written, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need"NKJV (Heb 4:16). We not only "obtained mercy" when we were delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's "dear Son" (Col 1:13), we continue to obtain it. He grants it in deep compassion of our situation, and in divine pity (Psa 103:13-14). He is generous toward those who come to Him, and tender and kind. The recognition of the wonderful change that has been wrought in us is a constant source of spiritual refreshment. It is also a means by which God is glorified and praised.