I’m about to complete the series on articles on the kingdom. I plan to do this one and one more and conclude that study. One of my favorite text in the Bible about God’s call for us as His people is in I Peter 2:9-10. It says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Peter had just pictured Jesus as that stone of stumbling that has been made the cornerstone. He had pictured God’s people as “Living stones being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Think of this visual image Peter was trying to create for us. The old Temple that Solomon had built was special. God blessed that house and called it a house of prayer for all nations. But it was always intended to point to a better day. It was pointing to a time when the temple of God wouldn’t be built with stones or wood or gold, but it would be built with human bricks to make up God’s house or kingdom. Can you imagine a massive temple that you see in the distance and as you move closer to it you realize the building blocks aren’t some special stones but people that are built one on the other. These people aren’t dead and stacked in some morbid way. They are alive and working and growing as as they grow the temple grows with them. Can you imagine what it would have looked like if Peter had powerpoint and could put this visual aid in front of his readers?
With that scene in our minds, Peter declares this is what you are as God’s people, those who make up His kingdom in this world. It is important to be citizens and accepted in the kingdom, but our position is bigger than that. We are a chosen generation. Solomon had the builders to choose carefully the stones placed in the temple. In some special areas that search for the right stone must have been a challenge. God wants us to see that as He builds this great spiritual temple, he is choosing carefully the stones to place at just the right spot in the walls and furnishings of the temple. God longs for all people to be saved and isn’t willing that any should perish but wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9; Titus 2:11; Hebrews 2:9). He demanded that we go into the whole world to preach the good news of him to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). We have a choice about our reaction to His gospel. But we are also chosen by God as His people and for His purpose. Over in I Corinthians 12 as Paul discussed the spiritual gifts he noted that all the gifts were given to build up the body not for our own spiritual development. Then as he described the body and how we were all parts of the body he said, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (I Corinthians 12:18) God’s will and choice doesn’t overwhelm our will and choice but we must never move so far in the thinking of free moral agency that we overlook the choosing of God. Picture God looking through the people as the workers on the temple searched for the right stone to place in each spot, he is constantly putting us in the place best for the body, the temple for it’s growth and our growth. The difference is that we as the living stones often fuss and cry about the place God has chosen to put us and are certain he has placed us in the wrong spot. I wonder how often our moving from one church to another has anything to do with God’s choosing.
Not only are we chosen as God’s stones to build up His Temple. We are the Royal Priest to serve in the temple to lead others to God and to help those other stones and priest to grow up for God. We offer to God the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Him. Think for a moment of the sacrifices God challenges us to give in His work in the New Testament. Obviously he longs first for us to give ourselves as a living sacrifice to him. According to Romans 12:1-2 this is the personal challenge based on God’s work of redemption. It leads to God giving us different spiritual gifts that we may serve effectively in the body of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Paul described how the churches in Macedonia had pleaded with him to allow them to be part of the contribution from gentile churches to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. When they gave it was out of deep poverty, yet they gave freely, according to their ability and beyond what they were actually able to do, because they had first given themselves to the Lord. In Philippians 4:14-ft Paul described how the church in Philippi had sent gifts to him over and over again and had given more than he needed and that was a sacrifice well pleasing to God. In Hebrews 13:15-16 it says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
You are a “Holy Nation”. This was one of God’s descriptions of the Nation of Israel. Now, the kingdom is here and God’s people aren’t some particular country or nationality. It isn’t the Jews or Israel or Jerusalem any more. God’s people are those who from every nation, kindred and tongue have turned from the world of sin to Him in order to follow His will. In this nation the key isn’t citizenship papers, but holiness of life. God’s challenge was and is, “Be holy, for I am holy.” The idea of holiness is to be set apart. In the kingdom of Christ we are a separate kind of nation. There are no boundaries that can be drawn around the nation. It is people committed to Jesus as Lord and Master of their life. While being separate means a different kind of life and commitment, it doesn’t mean separating from the world in day to day life. Until there is contact, friendship and a demonstration of love and compassion we have little chance of leading anyone out of the world into that Holy Nation belonging to Jesus our Lord. We make the contact and build the relationships while demonstrating a very different life and loyalty.
You are “God’s special possession.” Remember the King James Version translated this “A Peculiar people.” In 1611 when that translation was made the peculiar was that property that had been marked out for a person. When they drew the line to demonstrate that this property belonged to some individual they referred to that land as his peculiar. As a follower of Christ we are God’s special people. The whole earth belongs to the Lord and everything in it. But Christians belong to Him in a special way.
Notice Peter then gives the “So what” for them. You are all these things as a disciple for a special purpose. “That you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” It doesn’t mean much for us to be the different things if we don’t fulfill the purpose. We are his special people for the purpose of proclaiming his praises to a lost and dying world. When we are silent to the world about what God has done so we can be saved the whole thing falls apart. Don’t miss the whole concept of “You are….That you may.”