"Biblical Theology Weekly Bible Study" <email@example.com>
Subject: AJBT. 1 Peter 2:1-10. The Royal Priesthood.
Date: September 16th 2016
1 Peter 2:1-10.
The Royal Priesthood
Copyright © 2016, Dr. John W. (Jack) Carter. All rights reserved.
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
It is easy to take a close look at the state of the world today, and come away with a doom-and-gloom scenario. When we consider the pervasive success that is evident in the power of sin to control and manipulate our general population and its leaders, we could find its devastating impact on society to be quite depressing and discouraging. In the first chapter of his letter to the church, Peter presented the early church with a message of encouragement, that though the consequences of sin do impact our daily lives, and may do so quite dramatically, there is no reason that our lives need to be defeated under its burden. Instead of living lives of fear, hopelessness, and despair, Christians have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to be lifted out of the miry clay, the muck and mire of this world and live above it, standing upon God’s promises as His grace and love emboldens the love of those who trust in Him. That trust brings with it a promise of an everlasting salvation and blessing beyond anything this world can even begin to comprehend.
That trust brings with it another blessing that much of the world misses: personal and direct access to the LORD of the universe; access to God; access without the need for a human mediator of any kind. All people inherently realize the holiness of God and the extent of our natural sinfulness, and so we as a species have spent the generations seeking ways to become good enough to be accepted by such a powerful and holy God. Religions have been formed through man’s creative gifts, religions that intend upon making people righteous enough to enter into the presence of God’s throne of grace. However, there is no religion of man that can remove the stain of sin from our lives. All people are characterized by sin, and that sin serves to condemn us to eternal separation from a Holy God. God is not expecting people to clean up their lives so that they can be worthy to stand in His presence. Such a task is impossible for man because no man can live a sinless life. Access to God can only be provided by a work of God, not a work of man: a work of God that demonstrates His grace that “while we were sinners,” God provided a way.
Peter is writing to the early church, particularly to those churches that he has not had an opportunity to visit. He writes in order to encourage them and help them to understand the blessing of the Gospel. He has declared to them the gospel of grace and now presents a discussion of how one is to live once grace has been received.
1 Peter 2:1. Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
The word rendered, “wherefore” clearly attaches this sentence with the previous discussion. Peter is describing the difference in character of one who has accepted the LORD in faith from one who has not.
Laying aside. Peter refers to the cessation of ungodly attitudes and behaviors as though we simply take hold of that which we already possess, lay it on the ground, and walk away. The word carries the idea of taking off a heavy coat or cloak that covers us, and by laying it down, we are freed of its weight and the oppressive heat that it is inflicting upon us. To lay something aside also carries the idea that it will never be picked up again. When one lays the burden down, one is forever freed of its insidious and intrinsic power. Peter is clearly noting that the items to follow are to be deliberately laid down and left behind.
All malice. Malice is literally a desire to see harm come to others. The foundational characteristic of a life that is fully submitted to the Holy Spirit is the uncompromised and consistent expression of unconditional agape love. If one is committed to this type of love, there is simply no circumstance for desiring another’s hurt. An agape-based desire for others is identical to the agape-based desire that God has for those whom He loves. Agape love never desires that another would come to harm. Any time we would think we love others, yet could desire their harm, such love is phileo, not agape. Phileo is the world’s conditional love that has no need for the Holy Spirit. The faithful can be vigilant to assure that phileo love does not replace agape love in their hearts. There is simply no appropriate place for any form of malice in the life of a faithful believer.
And all guile. To practice guile, is to practice deceit. Again, there is simply no place for a spirit of deceit in one who is expressing their faith through agape love. One who truly loves does not desire to deceive others or to propagate any form of untruth. Such a desire is unholy, and only serves self. Like malice, it seeks to hurt others rather than to edify others. There is simply no appropriate place for any form of guile in the life of a faithful believer.
Hypocrisies. We may be reminded of Paul’s admonition to “Let your love be without hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is the profession of a faith or belief that one does not truly hold and is formed from the Greek word hupokrisis which means to “play a part” as an actor does on stage in front of an audience. Hypocrisy is evident when one claims to demonstrate agape love in their life without the intent or power to do so, and instead their lives are limited to phileo. Others can observe this form of hypocrisy instantly when one demonstrates a lack of unconditional love in any way. People can perceive when an individual claims to be godly, but lives a life that demonstrates consistent acts of ungodliness. A heart that is sincerely submitted to God recognizes the damaging testimony that hypocrisy produces and seeks to maintain a consistent witness, finding encouragement when that testimony is full of agape, and discouragement when it is consistent with phileo. There is simply no appropriate place for any form of hypocrisy in the life of a faithful believer.
Envies. Envy is simply the discontentment that arises from a desire to possess something held by another. Envy is wholly self-seeking. An individual who experiences the pain of envy fails to fully appreciate the immeasurable blessings that the individual already has been given by God. Rather than express a spirit of thankfulness towards God, this person resents having not received from God something that God provided for someone else, and maybe did not intend for the complainer. Envy focuses on the possessions of others rather than the glories of God. Envy is not founded on unconditional love, but rather on one’s desire for personal gain. Agape love cannot inspire envy since its expression would always be found in the celebration of another’s blessings. There is simply no appropriate place for any form of envy in the life of a faithful believer.
Evil speakings. This may be one of the most predominant sins in the life of our Christian community, and the one that is the most difficult to control. Unholy speech, speaking in an unloving and uncaring manner towards others, is empowered by those thoughts that enter our minds and are then spoken without applying the filter of godly wisdom. If you truly love another without condition, you would never speak unkindly of the one loved, and would tend to give a defense when another speaks unkindly. This should be the character of a person of faith. You may have heard the testimony of another who says, “I never heard him/her say an unkind word about another person.” Because of the agape love that is to characterize the life of the faithful, this should be said of every believer. There is simply no appropriate place for any form of evil speech in the life of a faithful believer.
1 Peter 2:2. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
Peter is writing to the early church, a community that includes both new and mature believers. The early church lacked many of the written resources we now possess, having to rely predominantly on the testimony of more mature believers in order to understand the doctrines of the faith and how they relate to that which some of those who have an Old Testament background might understand. Note that Peter is writing to communities that are not predominantly Jewish.
Peter first refers to the freshness of the faith that comes with the original knowledge of God’s personal purpose for the believer. The faith of one who comes to the LORD may be powerful and complete, but that individual still has much to learn about the details of God’s purpose. A true believer will yearn to know those details, whether a babe in Christ, or a seasoned veteran of the faith. The desire in a believer shifts from a desire for the things of the world, things that Peter has just mentioned, to things of God. New believers (and old) should desire to intimately know the basics of the faith, finding these basics in God’s Word and in submission to learning opportunities with more knowledgeable Christians.
When Peter uses the word, “word,” he is referring to more than just the written Old Testament. His understanding of the Word, the logos, includes the power that the word has to produce change and to characterize the nature of the One it describes. Peter can confidently state that the Word, the logos, is Jesus.
Peter concludes, as he has experienced in his own life, that a steady and sincere learning of the nature and purpose of God leads to spiritual growth: a growth that is necessary and expected of every believer. Sometimes we may think that our task is done when we have brought someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The truth is that the necessary work has just begun. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, people who are learners, by immersing them in the knowledge of God. This is an on-going task, not a single event. God’s purpose for the believer is that the individual will grow in knowledge of the Word, and grow to a continuingly closer relationship with Him. Growth in the faith is essential to the life of a Christian.
1 Peter 2:3. If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
A foundational doctrine of the Christian faith is that of the infinite and loving grace of God. The word, “tasted,” is important and is used in a similar sense in other New Testament scriptures. When one is young in the faith they have come to both understand and experience the grace of God. All mankind deserves eternal separation from God because of their bent to sin. God chose to grant an undeserved gift when He provided a way of salvation, taking upon Himself at the cross the punishment for sin that we all deserve.
We are reminded by the writer of Hebrews that one can taste the truth, yet still reject it, and a rejection that is taken to the grave results only in eternal separation from God. Tasting is the beginning of experience, not the end. In the original language, the idea is that to taste something is to completely experience it, and having done so, make a judgment that results in a decision. I have tasted liver, and I have no intention of ever tasting or swallowing any form of liver again. I have no intent upon repenting of my rejection of liver. However, if you allow me to taste chocolate, I can assure you that it will be fully consumed and I will always be in a position to experience it again. Just like we can fully consume the chocolate, we can fully embrace the grace of God, accepting it fully and completely. When we do this as a babe in Christ, our faith is empowered to grow.
Peter makes it clear to his readers that they have all tasted the graciousness of the LORD. They have fully experienced it, and are able to make a judgment on how they will respond to it. They have received God’s unmerited favor. They can all choose to grow in their faith in and knowledge of God, though some may choose to reject the offer of salvation that comes through faith in God.
1 Peter 2:4. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
The power for growing in the faith is not predicated on one’s own effort, but rather on the power of the Holy Spirit working in the center of a submissive heart. “To whom coming,” uses a continuing sense of “as you are coming.” The “stone” is a single stone that, with others, forms the wall of a building. “This idiom … connoted permanence, security, dependability, and where God was known as rock and fortress.” This is the beginning of Peter’s use of a stone building as a metaphor for God’s working in the life of a faithful believer. God is the builder, and it is He who is doing a work in those who trust in Him. We should not continue without noting that this stone metaphor finds its source in the Old Testament, and Peter makes liberal use of the texts. Furthermore, Peter is referring to Jesus’ reference to himself as the fulfillment of the prophet’s writings that made reference to this stone idiom. So whether we are observing the stone metaphor in the Old Testament or the New, Jesus is ultimately its source.
We are accustomed to building a wall using bricks that are pre-formed and pre-shaped. The art of building ancient stone walls involved the shaping of the stones by the builder. It is in this way that God is shaping each person, cutting away that which is no longer edifying (building up) leaving behind that which God can use for His purpose. This implies the necessity for submission to the hammer of the builder, a hammer that can serve to cut away the malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speech, among other ungodly behaviors that so vex the spirit of man.
When the ancient builder inspects stones, he makes a distinction among them, accepting those that will serve his purpose and rejecting those which cannot. The living stones to which Peter refers, the community of faithful believers, find that they are chosen of God, precious for the building of the wall. The word for “precious” is literally, “well-hewn,” consistent with Peter’s metaphor. However, this living stone, unlike the dead stones of this world and its mythical and powerless gods, is rejected by the builders of this world. It should be no surprise to the faithful that they find rejection at the hands of man.
Peter clearly notes that the living stone was rejected by men, an outcast. “It is significant that Peter did not limit the rejection of the Christ, the living Stone, solely to the Jewish people. To be sure, he had stressed the fact of Israel's rejection of Christ in his sermon recorded in Acts 3:14: "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you." However, in 1 Peter 2:4 the apostle stated that the ultimate responsibility for turning away from the living Stone rests with the entire human race, not just the Jewish people: He was ‘rejected by men.’ "
1 Peter 2:5. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
The building that God is erecting, stone by stone, has a definite and important purpose. Each stone is selected, hewn, and placed at the appropriate point in the structure to accomplish that purpose: a community of faithful, the house of the LORD. Since the concept that the church is a building “was commonly accepted in early Christianity, then it is only a short step to view the members of the community as the stones which compose it.” The stones, those who place their faith and trust in God are called to an holy priesthood. The ancients had a very well-defined understanding of the position of the priest. The priest was ordained by God to bring sacrifices for the people. God set the priests apart to a special ministry. In the early years of the nation of Israel one of the twelve tribes, the Levites, were to serve as priests. These served as a mediator between the nation and God. According to the Mosaic Law only members of the tribe of Levi could serve as priests and conduct priestly duties. Any time someone from outside the tribe took upon himself the work of a priest, severe judgment fell upon the transgressor. For example, Samuel prophesied Saul’s fall following his taking upon himself the role of the priest and offering a burnt sacrifice. Even the King of Israel was to leave the priesthood to the priests.
The age of the priesthood \came to an end with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the open access to the Holy of Holies that took place during that event. Access to the Holy of Holies ended with the final destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The system of Temple sacrifices came to an end, and were never again requested by God. The metaphor of the presence of God within the walls of a Temple was no longer needed. Jesus served as the final sacrifice, and through the coming of the Holy Spirit, the heart of the believer became His Temple. Every faithful believer now has full access to God in the same manner of an ancient Aaronic or Levitical priest, and the presence of the Spirit in their hearts also gives them the same resources of an ancient prophet of the LORD.
All who truly place their faith in God have all of the personal “rights and privileges” of a priest. This represents a completely new order of priesthood. This new priesthood should not be confused with the ordination of church leadership into positions that we refer to as priests, pastors, etc. “The faithful are priests unto themselves and of themselves, whereas the ordained priests have other responsibilities beyond those received by all at baptism.”
The priesthood of the believer is intensely personal. Christians pray directly to God, and have no need for a mediator. Jesus died on the cross to bring complete forgiveness to all who place their faith and trust in Him, and by so doing God opened the door to the throne room of heaven. At Jesus’ crucifixion the veil of the Temple was torn, symbolically providing this access to the most holy place to all who would enter. Prayers offered up directly to God are acceptable to Him, as is the individual who is offering the sacrifice of prayer.
Another function of the Royal Priest was to offer up sacrifices for the nation. Even the Levitical and Aaronic priests were given the sole responsibility to offer up sacrifices for the nation, for the community where they were engaged, and for themselves. Likewise, Peter notes that the faithful are also called to offer sacrifices. However, the sacrifice that Peter refers to is not characterized by the killing of animals and the shedding of blood. “If we consider the overall impression 1 Peter makes, then it is clear that it is not particular rites that are the focus of attention, but rather the totality of Christian living which ought to glorify God” Peter is in agreement with Paul as he states the same truth apart from the priestly metaphor:
Romans 12:1. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
“In a word the type of spiritual sacrifice which Paul calls for here is obedience. There is no priestly ministry by the individual believer on behalf of anyone else. The act of obedience is that priestly ministry.”
The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews presents the same truth from a slightly different perspective:
Hebrews 13:15-16. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
It is clear that the spiritual sacrifices of which the New Testament writers agree is an intensely personal submission and commitment to the LORD that is evident in the spontaneous presentation of spiritual fruit: good works that come out of a love for the LORD and an unconditional love for others.
Together, the community of the faithful are a priesthood, ordained to love God, to glorify Him, to share the good news of His love with others, and to offer up a lifestyle that is characterized by continual spiritual sacrifice. The initial call of the Levites to the priesthood carried the same responsibilities, including sharing the Word of God with the lost world. Instead, the Israelites kept their knowledge of God to themselves and used it as a barrier to separate themselves from the very world they were ordained to serve.
1 Peter 2:6. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
One cannot understate the importance of the cornerstone of an ancient building. The artisan spent a good deal of time working on the cornerstone to assure its square angles and its level installation. Once installed, all other stones are laid with respect to the cornerstone, using it to sight the placement of each individual stone for both line and level.
The cornerstone that Peter mentions is a “chief cornerstone.” This does not represent one who is in charge, but rather, it does refer to the type of cornerstone that is used in the construction. We think of a cornerstone as a small marker at the corner of a building that may indicate the intended identity of the building, the date of the construction, and possibly a reference to its builders. Ancient buildings were built around a cornerstone that was hewn with as much precision as possible, laid as level as possible, and often formed a significant portion of the foundation, providing both a square surface to work from and assuring structural integrity. Archaeological digs have found foundation cornerstones as long as sixty feet or more. One such stone has been found that is over 10,000 cubic feet. This type of stone provides, not only the source for dimensioning the building, but also provides its solid foundation, supporting all of its walls. In a sandy and arid region, such a foundation would be particularly solid and sure.
The cutting and moving of such a stone was a monumental task, giving some context to Peter’s description of the stone as chosen and precious, on upon which one can stand without ever being “put to shame.”
Quoting Isaiah 28:16, the prophet points to the coming Messiah as He serves as this type of cornerstone as the foundation of Sion, a reference to the mount upon which the Jerusalem Temple was erected, a reference to the future Temple, the church of Jesus Christ.
“One way of describing the Church is that of a Temple composed of those who are fellow-citizens with the saints and built together into a habitation of God, a building whose corner stone is Jesus Christ.” Peter has given us an illustration of the part that the cornerstone plays in the formation of the building, the church. Each person who has placed their trust in the LORD are one of the stones in the edifice that is placed into position by God; placed into the walls in the place of His choosing based upon the individual’s character. The placement of the individual in the church is not only laid in-line with the carefully built Cornerstone, but also the walls of the edifice stand on it. The foundation upon which the walls stand is sure and solid, never to be compromised. Peter makes it clear that the church, the collection of stones in this edifice, are comprised of those who have placed their faith and trust in the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:7-8. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
The word translated precious, may more accurately be translated “honor” or “with honor.” Jesus is certainly precious and holds infinite honor in the hearts of those who have turned to Him in faith. This differentiates those who believe in Jesus and those who have faith in Jesus. Those who have faith in Him stand on the foundation of the cornerstone and have been placed into His edifice by Him. However, the cornerstone also stands to separate those who have faith from those who not. Those who have rejected this cornerstone are building their own edifice on a foundationless pride. The rejected stone is a quote from the Psalms, where the builders reject the very stone that would be the foundational and final stone that completes the structure. The One who those have rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The stone that they rejected is that which holds everything together.
1 Peter 2:8. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
Peter employs a second illustration from Isaiah’s prophecy in which those who reject God’s offer of salvation are stumbling over a stone. This word rendered “stumbling” is far more significant than a simple miss-step. It carries the idea of a miss-step that results in dramatic and incalculable injury. Since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s demand of righteousness, all of us have initially stumbled. All who reject the Cornerstone have rejected the Word of God and have been appointed by His plan to an eternity that is separated from Him. Those who reject the cornerstone are offended by it, and by their choice have demonstrated disobedience to the One who loves them and would have them turn to Him in faith and be part of the edifice that He is building. Instead, they build their own edifice, their own religious structures that stand without the foundation of Christ, nor with the hand of His design.
These who have built their own religion apart from Jesus think of themselves as righteous, holy, and priests, but are none of these. Apart from the power of Jesus, these who have rejected the Cornerstone are within the kingdom of the prince of this world and are powerless against his evil intentions. They lack the access to God that they proclaim, and have not experienced the true forgiveness for their unrighteousness that they diligently seek.
1 Peter 2:9. 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 marvellous light:
The word, “but” indicates a stark contrast between that which has just been said, and that which is about to be said. Where those who have rejected the Cornerstone have set for themselves a deliberate separation from God and His purpose, those to whom he speaks are those who have turned to Jesus Christ in sincere faith and trust. Peter draws from several Old Testament descriptions of the nation of Israel, at least the Israel that God would have planned had they been obedient and faithful to Him.
A chosen generation. God chose to bring to Himself those who turn to Him in faith. Referred to as the Doctrine of Election, the salvation of those who trust God takes place only because of God’s work, not man’s; only by God’s design, and not by man’s; only by God’s election, not by man’s. There is nothing man can do to be chosen of God other than turn to Him and accept His graceful offer of forgiveness. Salvation comes from God’s initiative and power, not mankind’s.
A royal priesthood. These are words that would incite the Jerusalem leadership to great anger by assigning to each believer a level of priesthood that even they themselves cannot attain. Up to this point, Peter has been describing the priesthood of the believer as similar to a Levitical or Aaronic priest. However, he now elevates the character of this priesthood to its very highest possible level.
The Levitical or Aaronic priesthood intercedes for the people within the context of the community where they live. These priests are scattered throughout the world-wide Jewish community and are known by their presence in the synagogues. However, the royal priesthood is that special subset of priests who have direct access to the king. This level of access is known by only the Jewish high priest, and even he is aware that his access is tenuous. The high priest would enter the Temple Holy of Holies with a rope tied around himself so that if he would be killed by God for his own sinfulness, others could drag his lifeless body out of the room without entering themselves.
Christians have no need for priests to serve intercession between themselves and God. Early church dogma and tradition taught that people were not worthy to be in God’s presence and must rely on those more-righteous priests (and canonized saints) to intercede for them. This gave the church control over its membership, and denied them a relationship with God that He intended. Jesus’ resurrection not only ended the need for a sacrificial system in the Temple, it also ended the need for priests.
Peter clearly teaches that all who have placed their faith and trust in God now have all of the opportunities for relationship with God that the most faithful priest would have. As a “priesthood,” the body of believers is now the school of priests. All have access to God’s throne without any need for an intercessor. Though the faithful should be separated from the throne because of their continued acts of unrighteousness, they find access to God by way of the forgiveness that they have received, a forgiveness that was purchased on the Cross of Calvary.
“Avoiding the very real danger of clericalism, we too must understand that the ministry or apostolate is not the monopoly of the clergy but the responsibility of all. In a sense, the role of the clergy is to help all fulfil this ministry. The lay faithful are not passive members of the body of our Lord — passengers being blindly lead by the driver-clergy or, at most, some kind of "back-seat drivers."
Another extremely important function of the priest cannot be overlooked. “Believers are a special sort of priesthood that, as privileged as they may be, is commissioned to minister through proclamation God's virtues to the world.” Though the authority of the priesthood of the believer is a personal one between the believer and the LORD, the believer is still commissioned to serve as a missionary to this lost world, with the mission to share the gospel so that others can be saved.
An holy nation. Israel certainly had a strong nationalistic fervor, recognizing themselves as a nation that was under the authority of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It may be instructive to note that Peter was writing to a group that was a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles, and probably the great majority of these Greek Christians were Gentiles. Peter is using the Old Testament reference to the chosen nation of Israel to describe the now-chosen “nation” of the faithful, those who have turned their heart to God and received forgiveness by their submission to the Messiah, accepting forgiveness that only He has the authority to do. Like Israel, this Holy Nation is to be separate from the world, a nation that falls entirely within the domain of the kingdom of God. Peter did not think of the Church as a replacement of the nation of Israel, but rather its fulfillment.
A peculiar people. Though one can take this literal word, peculiar, and correctly apply it to describe the holy nation of believers, this is only a small part of the intent of this word. Those who are of the body of believers should be identifiably different from those in the rest of the world. The ancient Jews were identifiably different, but they maintained that difference by adherence to a stringent law that defined their appearance and behavior. The faithful are under no such set of laws that would cause them to look “peculiar” to those outside of the faith. Consequently, it is easy for a Christian to set aside their call to peculiarity and mix in with the world to the point that their distinctives as a Christian are almost unidentifiable.
However, when we apply the broader sense of this word, we find that Peter is describing a people who belong to God. If one completely and wholly belongs to God, the peculiarity that this verse describes will be a natural fruit. Christians who are fully submitted to Him will be identifiable, not so much by their physical appearance, but by the unconditional agape love that shapes their behavior and forms the context of their relationships.
“That you should show forth …” God has a purpose for this holy nation that goes beyond the relationship that they have with Him; that goes beyond these distinctives that Peter has just listed. Those who have received the blessing of God’s grace should be overflowing with praise for Him to the extent that their praise is evident to those who are still unrepentant, those who have still rejected the Cornerstone. As they live lives that demonstrate unconditional love towards others, they are showing the love of God which is also unconditional and seeks to bless all who will come to Him.
1 Peter 2:10. 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
A dramatic and identifiable status change takes place in the life of the believer, one that identifies the person in a couple of distinct ways. Referring to Hosea’s prophesies of God’s redemptive purpose for sinful Israel, Peter implies that this prophecy is completed in the Church of Jesus Christ. Prior to coming to the LORD, Peter’s readers were lost and in darkness as were the ancient Jews, but now the fulfillment of the prophecy has come true. Those who trust in God are the people of God. They are His people, and He is their God. Those who trust in God have obtained the mercy that Hosea wrote of.
Peter presents the new life in Christ as one of a close and personal relationship with God. Unlike the practitioners of pagan and errant religions that define themselves by their works, their creeds, their systems of authority and autocracy, or by the intermediaries who stand between the rank-and-file members and their mythical gods, Peter clearly lifts the believer from a state of spiritual poverty and intrinsic valuelessness to the status of the highest order of a royal priest who has unimpeded access to the throne of God; given fellowship with God, Himself. God desires our hearts, not our work.
With the status of a royal priesthood, Peter also reminds us that the gift of grace comes with the responsibility of conducting ourselves in priestly roles, including leading others out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. Many of those in the community of ancient Israel despised God’s mercy by preferring to hold on to the godless practices of the pagan world around them, keeping their limited belief in God to themselves, and failing to either draw close to God or fulfill His purpose by sharing His love with the pagan people groups that they encountered. Christians today can learn from their example, as well as by New Testament writings such as this, that salvation brings with it a change that must be evident and expressed in the life of the believer. The royal priesthood stands above the lostness and despair of this pagan world, and works to bring it to the wonderful light of God’s grace that seeks to win all people to Himself.
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