The People of God
Scripture: I Peter 2:4-10
Outcasts. Gentile ‘dogs.’ Slaves. Nobodies. Rejected by men. The world’s doormats. That was what the makeup of the Christian church to which Peter addresses his epistle looked like — to the world and to themselves. (Truth be told, in many respects it is little different today; far too often, this is how our congregations are viewed by the world and how we see ourselves.)
But look Who is the foundation of this new faith, look Who is the “cornerstone” of the Church: the stone that men rejected. Do Isaiah’s words come to mind? “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” It is the suffering Servant upon Whom our faith is based.
And as if identifying with Jesus weren’t enough encouragement, Peter tells his readers — and us — that we are not outcasts; we belong to God. We are not doormats to be walked upon; we are living stones that make up the Temple of the living God. We are not nobodies; we are precious. We may be rejected by men, but we are chosen of God. Gentile dogs are now a holy nation. Slaves they may remain, but they are among the royal priesthood of the Kingdom of God. What a powerful message to the Church, then and now.
The prophetic life of Hosea is brought to mind as verse 10 says “Once you were not a people [Lo-Ammi]…once you had not received mercy [Lo-Ruhamah].” But NOW… But NOW… You are the people of God because you have received the mercy of Christ! It is a glorious message, this Gospel we preach!
I. Once you were…
A. Stumbling in disobedience (verse 8). Without knowing the One who is The Way, we are destined to stumble and fall.
B. In darkness (verse 9). The contrast between the old life of sin and the new life of grace is stark — from darkness to light, from death to life.
C. Not a people. (verse 10)
1. Sin is divisive. It separates us from God and from one another. There is no “family of unbelievers” like the Family of God. Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones is the image of arid separateness which characterizes those who are “not a people.”
2. People who are trapped in sin are not ‘family’ in the way that the people of God are family. When we were in sin, we were outcast and isolated from others — not just from those in the church. We were NOT “a people.”
D. Without mercy (verse 10). The message of Hosea is that the mercy of God is always offered, but not always “received.”
Consider the picture. The one who is outside of the family of God, who is wallowing in sin, who hasn’t accepted Christ’s offer of grace and forgiveness of sin, that person is alone, stumbling in darkness and disobedience, and living outside of the abundant mercy of God. That is what we once were, before grace.
II. Now you are…
A. A chosen people, the people of God, a people belonging to God, chosen by God and precious to Him. Notice the repetition — chosen…people. Peter, the one God told not to call unclean what God calls clean, tells these Gentile believers (whom at one time he would not have associated with) that they are the new Israel: God’s chosen people.
ILLUS – the KJV uses the word “peculiar” — a ‘peculiar’ people. Specially set apart for the King.
B. A holy priesthood (verse 4), a royal priesthood (verse 9). Those who previously could not find the way are now leading others to The Way.
1. We need to come to grips with the “special-ness” of being members of the priesthood of God. In the Old Testament, only men of the tribe of Levi could be priests. Only the specially chosen tribe of the specially chosen people could serve as priests in the Temple.
2. But NOW [consider the importance of that word, too] we are part of the priesthood of all believers. We do not need to come to God through the mediation of another, we come boldly before His throne of grace. We do not need another to offer sacrifice on our behalf; Jesus Himself was the sacrifice, once for all — for all people and for all time and for all sins. Hallelujah!
C. Living in the light (verse 9). That reality carries with it certain responsibilities, such as letting your “light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Peter calls it ‘declaring His praises.’
D. A forgiven people — you have received mercy (v. 10).
A. Be thankful for the grace of God and live a life of gratitude.
B. Live like the person you are. Chosen people, royal priests. God’s precious ones ought not act like spoiled brats, but like those who have been adopted into a privileged life; that is the reality, after all.
C. And declare God’s praises. By the life you live, the words you speak, the works you do, the places you go and the attitudes you show.
In the days when class distinctions were more readily apparent and more socially tolerated, there was an expectation laid upon the privileged classes called ‘noblesse oblige.’ The idea was that the elite were obligated to show compassion toward the less privileged and to conduct themselves with grace; their ‘nobility’ placed them under obligation. We are the people of God! A royal priesthood! A holy nation! A chosen people! Let’s act like it.
When the reality of the headaches, problems, worries, challenges, etc. of life set in, just remember who and Whose you are: God’s treasured possession set apart to live holy lives in obedience to Him. That reality makes us very special indeed!