Our Undeserved Identity

1 Peter 2: 4 – 10.

Despite the shortcomings of Israel as Yahweh’s chosen nation throughout their history, God confirmed His irreversible covenant with the Jews by addressing those in the Babylonian captivity as “the people whom I formed for Myself who will declare My praise… and I am the one who wipes out their transgressions for My own sake” (Isa 43:1-4; Isa 43:18-25). Scriptural narratives repeatedly inform us that God loved the Jewish people irrespective of whether they honoured Him or not because He simply decided to set His loving kindness on them. In the New Testament context, the Apostle Peter applied this language in his Epistle to his Christian Gentile readers who were aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, describing them as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession (1Peter 1:1; 1Peter 3:9).

A Chosen Race: The basis for our identity is that God has specially chosen us before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him (Eph 1:4): a fact too overwhelming for our finite minds to grasp! Would it be too far-fetched to surmise that God individually identified and purposefully separated each of us from a myriad of races, before His creative activity of our material universe began? A daunting perspective to fathom!

A Royal Priesthood: The Old Testament priests did not have a choice in belonging to the Levitical Aaronic family; they were born into it and called into the ministry of mediation between Yahweh and man (Ex 19:5-6). Furthermore, as a sanctified people, they became a divine witness to the earthly kingdoms in the world (c.f., Rom 15:16). In a similar vein, believers in Christ have access to the Holy of Holies, discharging their priestly function of modelling the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hence, we become those who reflect the presence of the living God in this world.

A Holy Nation: Positionally, we are holy as God is holy, but behaviourally we inevitably fall far short of it, contradicting the very essence of our stance in Christ and betraying our calling (1Peter 1:15-16; c.f., Rom 7:14-25). Nonetheless, it does not discount our heavenly identity as a holy community tasked to eternally operate within the divine realm with our feet firmly planted in this world.

A People For God’s Own Possession: Peter again drew from the Prophet Hosea when he addressed believers, “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (c.f., Hosea 1:6-9; Hosea 2:23). The crux of this description, irrespective of Jew or Gentile, was that God had judiciously sentenced all to be condemned as incorrigible sinners, but by His sovereign grace, He saved and transformed them into a people who belonged to Him (c.f., Rom 1:18-23; Rom 3:21-26). Although God’s sovereignty is exercised over every kingdom on earth, Israel became God’s exclusive possession, and likewise in the New Testament context, the Body of Christ, His church. This is a continuation of God’s covenant initiative in Peter’s dazzling narrative of a God-centred privilege of principally becoming a blessing to others (1Peter 3:9-12).

In conclusion, Peter exhorted us to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1Peter 2:9). Eternal gratefulness is a rare trait to possess, as the human attention span and memories are exceedingly short, and we are relentlessly distracted and fixated on worldly concerns. That is our shortcoming, but it ought not to preclude us from progressively working out what God in Christ had achieved for us through the cross (1Peter 2:21-25; c.f., John 14:16-17; John 14:26), by perennially moving away from our ego-centric idolatry and refocusing on His redemptive sacrifice for us; literally moving from degrees of darkness into the pure light of His presence (c.f., Eph 4:17-32).