1 PETER 2:9-13: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10) 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. 11) Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12) Live such good lives among the pagans, that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
My fellow Christians:
Who are you? What are you? What are you doing here? Why are things happening the way they are?
As human beings, we have a tendency to let the things happening in our everyday life to disturb, distract, and divert our attention. We think about what we have to do in order to get through the day, we react to what just happened, and forget to see things in the bigger picture.
Or we can go to the opposite extreme where, for whatever reason, we neglect to take care of what we need to do at work, at home, in our families. Sometimes we feel ground down, overwhelmed. Maybe we feel we are being taken advantage of or we can’t accomplish anything because of forces outside of our control. We just can’t seem to care anymore or get ourselves to take care of what we need to do. We don’t see our lives as having any really great meaning, purpose, or point.
Today, we want to listen as Peter reminds us of who and what we really are, a people chosen by God. Your life has meaning and importance because God chose you. God chose you to belong to Him. God chose you to receive His mercy. God chose you to live in His glory.
Peter starts our section with four phrases. He calls us: “A chosen people”, “a royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and in conclusion, a “people belonging to God.” All four of these phrases have their separate shadings of meaning, but taken together, they have one clear message: God chose you, each and every one of you here today, to belong to Him and to be part of His kingdom. And because God chose you, and only because God chose you, you are part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God.
When Peter wrote: “you are a chosen people,” this was not a new concept to his first audience. The early Christians knew that just as the nation of Israel was called God’s chosen people in the Old Testament, in the very same way all the believers in Jesus Christ were chosen by God to be part of the kingdom of heaven.
And not just any part. We are also called a “royal priesthood.” We are not just subjects of the kingdom of heaven, we are also called priests. Not just me or the Pastor, and not just a certain select “special” advanced group of Christians among us. No, Peter says that every single Christian is a priest, and together we are all a “royal priesthood.”
When is the last time you thought about yourself as a priest? What does that mean, anyway?
In verse five, we heard about Peter telling us to be a “holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Now this does not mean that we offer sacrifices to appease God or pay for our sins. That has already been accomplished by the ultimate High Priest, Jesus Christ. Because he lived a perfect life as a human and died on the cross as God to pay for all the evil we have ever done and all the failures we have ever had, and we are now able to do the work of priesthood.
Now as a priest you have not only the right but also the duty and privilege to reflect the holiness of God in your life and offer spiritual sacrifices of yourself, your heart, your mind, your body, your time, and your love. You the right, duty and privilege to pray directly to God, not only for yourself, but also for others. You have the right, duty, and privilege to speak about God and what he has done. All because you are a priest.
And not just a priest, you are part of a “royal” priesthood. We are together priests serving in the kingdom of God. And that is why Peter also calls us a “holy nation.” A nation consists of citizens under one government in a specific geographic area with defined borders. There are common laws, and usually a common language and culture. Citizens of the “holy nation” also have a common language and culture, the language and culture of faith. Our first loyalty, our first allegiance is to God. In life, and through death into everlasting life in heaven, we are all members of a holy nation. And our fellow citizens are all around us.
Finally, because God chose you to belong to Him forever, you are part of “a people belonging to God.” This is your identity. This is who you are, forever. God chose you, and you are His.
But why? Why did God choose you? Why did God choose me? It was not because God needed us. It was not because we are somehow better than anyone else. It was not because we had an inside connection. No. God chose you to receive His mercy. Peter says: “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.”
From death to life, from darkness to light, from unbelief and destruction to faith and eternal glory, all of it is because of God’s mercy. What you are now is so much greater than what you were, because God chose you to receive His mercy.
It began before the world was even created. God says in Ephesians 1:4-5 “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” God chose you back then, before the world began.
And in his mercy, God created your ancestors and through them, he brought you into being. He provided this world as a home and a place to provide for all of your physical needs.
After sin and evil came into the world, God gave you and me His Son, Jesus Christ, to restore our relationship to Him. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, first by living a perfect life that we could not and offering His perfect life as a divine substitute for our failures. By dying on the cross, Jesus wiped out everything that we have ever done to offend God solely out of His love for us, earning us eternal life in heaven. And finally, the Holy Spirit has created faith in us, solely out of God’s mercy.
The more you think about it, the more humbling it is. God chose you to receive His mercy. Without it, you could not be part of God’s people. Indeed, there would be no “God’s people” at all!
For the truth is, no one can do this by themselves. No one can qualify on their own to be part of the holy nation. But because of what God did for you, in you, and through you to others, you, all of you, are the people of God, chosen, set apart, destined for heaven. God chose you to receive His mercy forever.
God’s choice of you, God’s mercy to you, are from eternity and for eternity. Which means God’s choice also has a huge impact on the life you live here and now. In the last two verses we read today, Peter sets out two themes about how God’s people live. For the rest of the epistle, Peter will go into details, but first, he gives us two general principles. Peter says: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2:11-12.
God chose you to belong to Him, God chose you to receive His mercy, and in this life as well as the next, God chose you to live in His glory. While we are here living our lives, Peter says that in God’s mercy we do two things. First, we always strive to avoid what is evil and second, we live for what is good. Because we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, we act as aliens and strangers to what wrong in this world. The sinful desires we all have war against our souls because they war against God. We do our best to abstain from giving in to them, because we are not of the world, we are God’s chosen people chosen to live in His glory.
Instead, Peter tells us, “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong, they may see your good and glorify God on the day he visits us.” As we work through some of the many examples of that in the weeks ahead, remember we lead our lives the way we do because God chose us to and God wants us to. God chose you to belong to Him, God chose you to receive His mercy. And God chose you to live in his Glory, now and forever. The choice has been made. God will not change his mind. Amen.