For the Christian, there is a deep truth in belonging that is found in the pages of scripture. We don’t only live in a world where God has ownership over us and so dictates our every action. That is called slavery. God did not create in order to fill the world with slaves that would do His will. He created for His glory. He chose the nation of Israel as His chosen and beloved people and this promise is for us today too.
“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.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Peter is speaking in his letter to a predominantly Gentile population. But what he is saying is rooted in the promise of God to Israel. “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6a). In the words “kingdom of priests” we see the entire nation of Israel included in this call. The whole nation was to model holy living, be a witness to the glory and beauty of the Lord their God and to draw people from other nations into a saving relationship with God.
Priests in Israel were holy men who were set apart to serve in the tabernacle and later in the temple. They were given the responsibility of presiding over religious rituals and sacrifices required by the law. Their purpose was to help the Israelites maintain their relationship with God. In calling the Gentiles, and in extension, us, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s special possession, Peter is charging us with that same responsibility. To do and speak those things that set us apart and that will help other people maintain or move towards a personal relationship with God.
But the Christian life is not automatic. It is relational, just like life. We were created to be in relationship with God and with others. We are a part of a larger family of God. A priesthood of believers. A people set apart. I want to make mention of a little word that we see often in the Bible. The word “but.” When this word appears in Scripture at the start of a verse like in 1 Peter 2:9, it’s often a note to pay attention.
Here, it is showing us the contrast between that which was before, where in verse 8 Peter talks of the disobedient who stumble, and that which he says in verse 9, that these Christians are a chosen people. So, although all people belong to God, we, His people, are His special possession. And why are we given this honour? So that we might declare the praises of God! He who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!
In both the Old and New Testaments light and darkness are used as metaphors for good and evil, chaos and order, truth and untruth, life and death. The very first creative act of God was to say “Let there be light!” and He separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4). Before these Christians to which Peter is speaking knew Christ, they were living in darkness—the darkness of not knowing God—the darkness of a life without the guidance, hope and love that can be found in Christ alone. But now God has embraced them as His very own. They are not alone. They are now living a life of belonging to God and of belonging to one another. A royal priesthood, a people set apart, the family of God. Not as separate from one another but joined in Christ to one another and to God Himself in order to bring God glory by revealing Him to the world through their holy living.
As the beloved and chosen of God, we have been called to be a beacon of light to the world. The light of Christ. The picture of a people that are living a life of light, of love, of good, order, truth and life. Abundant life. Life in community. The community of a family. The family of God.