A People For God’s Own Possession

1 Peter 2: 4 – 10.

The Apostle Peter was writing to the diaspora Jewish believers in Asia Minor, many of them possibly driven out from Judea by Roman persecution. In his Epistle, he addressed their transcendental identity, employing terms that are similar to their Judaic background, yet different as he characterises them in New Testament distinctiveness.

The Old Testament is replete with references of God’s choice favouring the Jews as a race (1Peter 2:9, “a chosen race,” c.f., Exod 19:5-6; Isa 43:3-4) and He makes no apologies for it despite their countless betrayals through the aeon (Deut 7:7-11; Isa 43:22-28). Peter then used this inclusive language for all believers as being the chosen people of God, elected in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world (c.f., Eph 1:4-6). Furthermore, the Levitical archetype of the Aaronic priesthood, specially appointed by Yahweh to serve in the temple, was a precursor to the ‘royal priesthood’ of our Saviour (Heb 8:23-25; Heb 9:11-14; Heb 10:11-18). Due to our position in Christ, believers are nevertheless priests. In a parallel alignment, God also considered Israel ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ despite the consecrated Levitical line (Exod 19:5-6; Gal 3:26-29). This is remarkable, for as priests we mediate God’s grace to all (1Peter 1:9, ‘a royal priesthood’; c.f., Rom 15:15-17), quite apart from our priestly function towards God in praise, worship and service. What constitutes a ‘holy nation?’ (1Peter 1:9, ‘a holy nation’). Holiness, a character trait of the Almighty, is perhaps the only attribute that appears to be transferable to humans in Christ (Lev 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16). Descriptions of holiness narrated in Scripture invariably involved instantaneous and palpable reactions: angels covered their faces and prophets gripped by fear and trepidation (Isa 6:1-5; Rev 1:17). The principal thought being that holiness entailed an absolute separation of what is considered Yahwehistic sacredness from that which is immoral and unrighteous. To be holy in Christ is to be identified as exclusively separated for God’s use; being ‘a people for God’s own possession’ (1Peter 2:9), again translating His Old Covenant promises into the New, thereby embracing all believers (Isa 43:1-7; Isa 43:20-21). Peter outlined the incalculable privilege of sanctified Christian identity through God’s own initiative, chosen and loved eternally by Him, and dedicated to serving Him in His timeless cause (Eph 1:9-10).

The expressed purpose of being called out of darkness into His marvellous light is that we may unequivocally proclaim the excellencies of His glory to all (1Peter 1:9; c.f., 2Cor 4:6; Acts 26:18); an inherently God-centred declaration of the One Who died and has risen and Who is the Lord of lords and King of kings. Peter’s use of Old Testament language reflects the Prophet Hosea’s descriptions of God’s mercy and grace in the choice of His people (Hosea 1:6-9; Hosea 2:21-23; c.f., Rom 9:25-26). Once more, the Israelites were judged by God but subsequently forgiven and restored, likewise, Gentile and Jewish believers have now been declared God’s people. In point of fact, the Apostle Paul masterfully exposited at great length the purpose and process of the atonement sacrifice in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom 1:18 – 3:20), concluding unequivocally its judicial condemnation applied to everyone for sin; Jews and Gentiles alike. Divine redemption was secured by Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross on Golgotha, ensuring that those who were ‘once not His people… and had not received mercy’ became the people of God (1Peter 2:24-25), transforming our eternal identity. In Christ, all our numerous earthly distinctiveness (i.e., culturally, socially, ethnically, etc) pale in significance to our high positional calling in our Beloved Lord.