January 12, 2020
I’m not sure I fully understand the United States’, our obsession with British royalty, but it is alive and well. It’s like we can’t get enough. Whether it’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the popular Netflix series, The Crown; or Prince Charles of Wales and now deceased Princess Diana; or their sons Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Duchess Catherine, or his younger brother Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Duchess [American] Meghan Markle.
Everyone is interested in British Royalty, and it makes the front page of our news almost daily. The latest news is Prince Harry of Sussex, his American wife Meghan, and their new son, Archie, are pulling their own Brexit – I understand called Megxit, encouraged by none other than Oprah – leaving their royal duties behind to build their own brand, Sussex Royal – planning to split their time between North America and Great Britain. I understand there has been quite the family conflict between Harry and Meghan and, well, everyone else. But to leave the royal family fortune? Not to worry, the Sussex Royal brand already has an estimated value of $500 million – I think they’ll scrape by.
Everyone is obsessed with royalty, I suppose, the dreams of most little boys and girls – to be a king or queen, a prince or princess, one day. I guess that explains part of the popularity of the Chronicles of Narnia. It seems the dreams never really leave us. And so, I have some incredibly good news for you today, my royal brothers and sisters.
Last week, I asked and answered two questions, starting with, Who is God? To be clear, I did not give an exhaustive answer – you thought my sermon was long – it will take us all eternity to begin to scratch the surface of the question. But from our study of I Peter, we saw some important things last week – He is Creator, and He is Savior. In fact, He is triune, eternally manifesting Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. I was struck last week, and I hope you were, that Peter, who hung out with Jesus, refers to Jesus – the carpenter’s son – as Yahweh – the personal name for God. Remember that – he applied Psalm 34:8 to Jesus – if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord – of Yahweh – and says that is Jesus.
Further, I wanted to proclaim the truth that since Jesus is God in the flesh, we must come to Him to find life, meaning, purpose – to know the joy of sins forgiven and become living stones, built on the foundation Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. We then become part of a spiritual house that Jesus is building – in which we are a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices to God, through our High Priest Jesus. We saw we have a choice to make – to come to Jesus as God and confess Him as Lord, or reject Him, and find eternal, shameful, disappointing doom.
But, if we surrender our lives in faith to Jesus Christ, there is much that results. Bringing us to the question of the morning, who are we? Who is God, and what is man? That brings us to our text today. You want to be royalty, to have a bank account with half a billion dollar balance? I got something better: listen to this, I Peter 2:9-10.
This week, I want to ask and answer the question, who is man? Who is man? More specifically – who are we, as a result of coming to Him – the living stone? Peter actually draws a contrast – we weren’t a people, now we are – we weren’t God’s, now are – we had not received mercy, now we have. Let me give you the easy outline – who are we?
- We are a Chosen Race
- We are a Royal Priesthood
- We are a Holy Nation
- We are a People of God’s Own Possession
- We are a People Who Have Received Mercy
- So What?
Don’t worry – I know that’s six points and I went extra long last week – I’ll try to shorten it up this week. Now, as we begin, you should know two important things. First, these two verses begin in verse 9 with the word, but. Peter is drawing an incredibly important contrast with those just mentioned. Those in the previous verses had rejected Jesus in their disobedience to the word. They had refused to believe the gospel. They had stumbled on the cornerstone, which has become a rock of offence. And so Jesus said, they will be scattered like dust. And to this doom – eternal condemnation – they are appointed. But not you. You are, rather, a chosen people.
Second, as I said last week, Peter takes OT texts written to or about Israel and applies them to the church. We have to deal with that. I’m not suggesting the church replaces Israel. I’m not suggesting God is done with Israel. I will say this. Many of the promises made to Israel are ultimately fulfilled in the church, which by the way includes Jews. In fact, in its origin, the church was Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. You can’t be anti-Semitic and a Christian. I don’t believe God is done with Israel – read Romans 9-11. But now, His focus is on the new people of God – the church of His Son. Meaning, God’s chosen people today are made up of the church.
So again, these promises are ultimately fulfilled in the church without denying the national existence of Israel, nor God’s people the Jews, nor suggesting God is done with Israel, nor suggesting all the promises are now transferred to us, nor suggesting the church replaces Israel. But, we must deal with the OT statements made to Israel that Peter applies to the church. By the way, let me read those OT texts from which these statements comes. The first is found in Isaiah 43:20-21, where God is talking about restoring His people from the Babylonian Exile. In fact, deliverance from Egypt and later Babylon become motifs for God’s deliverance of us:
20 “The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people. [The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT has chosen race here, which Peter uses]
21 “The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise.
Keep that one in mind, because we will come back to it. The point is, God has a chosen race He made for Himself – to be His people – and declare His praises. The word race speaks of people descended from a common lineage – in Israel’s case, they were descendents of Abraham – which was important in the OT – the chosen people of God were those whose common lineage was Abraham.
The next one, more clearly seen, is in Exodus 19. What is important about this one is it takes place at Mt. Sinai. God has just delivered the Israelites from Egypt. After crossing the Red Sea, He leads them to the mountain of God to receive the Law. And we read these words of God to Israel:
5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
So God said to Moses – tell the people if they keep My Covenant, then they will be My possession among all the peoples – and they will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But notice – if you keep My covenant. And of course, we know the Israelites did not keep His covenant, demanding a fulfillment of these words to a later chosen people – the church. The last OT quote is found in Hosea 2:23:
23 “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”
Again, these words were promised to Israel, and indeed fulfilled in Israel. But now we find their ultimate fulfillment in the church. What is man? Who are we? We are of all people most blessed – people to whom God has made promises – fulfilled in us not because of the Old Covenant, but because of the New.
So, you are a chosen race. Remember verse 1, Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those scattered as aliens, who are chosen. Eklektos – elect. That’s who you are – a chosen race. Now again, Peter continues to quote OT passages, spoken first to Israel, but now applied to Christians. This is incredible. I’ve said this before. When I was young, I used to think, nothing could be better than to be a messianic Jew – that is, Jewish by ethnicity, but a believer in Jesus as my Messiah. That would have to be the cat’s meow.
I was so naïve. I have Jesus as my Messiah and Christ – and regardless of ethnicity – Jew or Gentile – I am most blessed. He has chosen me to believe and be part of a chosen race. What is that race? It’s a new race – not one of national or ethnic origin. It is a race made up of believers in Jesus Christ. We have a common lineage – we are born again from our Father through the work of His Son. If there is an answer to the racism that is found in our world, it is to be found only in Jesus Christ. Listen, getting children of different race and color and gender together – to hug – is sweet – but it will ultimately not work.
It is only when we are brought into one family – one race – where Jesus has torn down the middle wall of partition that separates us. It is only then it will ultimately work. I can say with all truthfulness – even though I’m a white male, which is one thing you don’t want to be today – I love people of all ethnicity, race, color, nationality, gender (and there’s only two), age, etc. because of the presence of Christ in my life. I’m proud that my family – almost all believers – is made up of Asians and Latinos and Caucasians. We need a black person to round it out. That might offend some of you, but the truth is – my family – my spiritual family – is made up of people of every tribe, tongue, kindred and nation. Heaven is going to be gloriously and beautifully multi-colored. It is only Jesus who permanently breaks down barriers we have erected. We are a chosen race. One race – born into the family of God.
And by the way – remember to whom Peter was writing. Believers in Asia Minor ostracized for their faith. They didn’t belong – they were strangers and aliens – living in a country not their own. The Roman writer Suetonius refers to Christians as a separate class – they didn’t belong, “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.” They were alienated from the Empire. Christians were said to be “haters of mankind.” They were antisocial, people who repudiated pleasures, broke with family ties, ruined business, abandoned the gods of the empire, avoided civic duties, and eventually brought the downfall of the Roman Empire. But Peter writes, no matter – we are a new race – a chosen race of people, belonging to God.
Again, I don’t want to skip over the fact that throughout this book Peter speaks of being chosen. Jesus was chosen by the Father to be the precious cornerstone. We also were chosen – according to the foreknowledge of God – to be a chosen race. And the reason we were chosen to believe is because, if left to ourselves, we never would believe. Such truth should not breed arrogance – it should produce great humility and deep gratitude. I was chosen, you were chosen – not because of anything in you that made you loveable – but because of His rich mercy and grace.
Not only are we a chosen race, we are a royal priesthood. As many of you know, the priesthood of the believer was lost to the church for centuries. Followers of Christ were forced to confess their sins to priests in order to find absolution and forgiveness for their sins. Along came the reformers in the 16th Century – men like Martin Luther and John Calvin – and among other lost doctrines, they recovered the priesthood of the believer. We are believer-priests. We have a high priest through whom we go to approach the Father – and that is Jesus Christ. There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
But let me make some important points here. Notice, we are a priesthood. The emphasis is not so much on us being individual priests – but we are together a priesthood. As I suggested last week, we need to escape the individualism of the American church. Just because you are a believer-priest with Jesus as your high priest does not mean you don’t need the church. We are together a priesthood.
Which leads to this – while we are not mediators between people and God – that is, people don’t come to and through us to get to the Father – there is a sense in which we, as a priesthood, represent God to the people. That is such a high and holy calling that Peter is going to say some things about that in the verses to follow. I want to be clear about that. In the OT – yes, there was a high priest, who represented God to the people, and the people to God. Yes, there was a priestly class within the tribe of Levi that performed daily priestly functions, who represented God to the people and the people to God. But, when God said to the Israelites in Exodus 19 – you will be a kingdom of priests to Me – He meant that as God’s chosen people and kingdom of priests – the Israelites were to represent God to the surrounding nations. He expected His kingdom to grow through the nation of Israel to the surrounding nations. They failed.
So also, when Peter applies that verse to us – as believers – we are to represent God to the lost people around us. How are we doing with that? You see, we will get to the so what – the last point – in a moment – but we are supposed to represent God to lost people by proclaiming His excellencies – and further – verses 11 and 12 next week – by living lives that back up our confession.
We are a royal priesthood. What does that mean? It means we are a priesthood representing the King of the universe. So, as you are catching up on every morsel of British royal family news, may I remind you that you are part of a royal priesthood – a son or daughter of the King of kings. A paltry half billion in the bank is nothing compared to your eternal inheritance reserved in heaven for you.
Third – and I need to speed up – we are a holy nation. Now, when we see the word holy, we typically think of the true fact that we are to be holy, as God is holy. But here, the meaning is rather we are a nation set apart for God and His purposes. That’s what Israel was supposed to be – they were supposed to be a priesthood, yes, but a nation separate from those around them. That’s why when they went into Canaan, they were supposed to wipe out the nations there – so they would not be assimilated into the culture. So yes, we are to be holy – but insomuch as we have been called by the King of this holy nation to be separated to Him to accomplish His purposes. We are not supposed to be like the people around us. We are supposed to be different – separated to God. People should look at us and see something altogether different. We are citizens of another country – and we are supposed to let this one go.
When God said you are a holy nation to the Israelites in Exodus 19 – this being set apart to God was established by the blood of the sacrifice of the covenant in Exodus 24. So also, we have set apart by the blood of the new covenant – Jesus used the language at the last Passover and the first communion when He gave them the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.” We have been set part – made a holy nation, by the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. You were purchased at a steep price, to be God’s own.
Bringing us to our next point – we are a people for God’s own possession. Remember back in Exodus 19 – even though all the earth was God’s, Israel was supposed to be especially God’s possession. They were not the most numerous of all the nations. In fact, they had to be redeemed from slavery in Egypt. So also us. We too had to be redeemed, such that we belong to God. After all, we have been purchased at a great price – the price of His Son. We belong to Him. We no longer belong to this evil world system, nor its gods. We are no longer our own – we have been bought with a price – therefore, we are to glorify God in our lives, which are His.
You see, we were once not a people. Just like the Israelites. They didn’t even exist as a people – not until God called Abraham from the Ur of the Chaldeans and said, I will make you into a great nation. God said this to a man who was old, who’s wife was old, and barren. But God gave them a son, just as He had promised. And from that son came a nation. But even then, they had to be incubated in Egypt. There, they became a nation. And God delivered them – they were not a people, but having been delivered, they became a great nation.
But did they become a nation with people as numerous as the sands on the seashore, the stars in the sky? I would suggest they have – through the church. We, too, were once not a people – but God has chosen us, and made us His people. And we have grown to be a holy nation of believers crossing every continent and every nation – such that we are most numerous.
How did that happen? Well, because we, who had not received mercy, did not deserve mercy, have received the mercy of God. Mercy speaks of not getting what we deserve. We deserved just, eternal punishment. But by His grace, because of the great love with which He loved us, God gave us mercy – releasing us from the deserved consequences of sin.
So, what do we do with all this? The end of verse 9 tells us the, so what? This is who we are – a chosen people, a royal priesthood representing God to the people around us, a holy nation, set apart for God’s purposes, a people owned by God to do His work, a people made of every tribe, tongue, kindred and nation, having received God’s mercy. For what purpose – to what end? Remember Isaiah 43? God formed His chosen people to declare His praises.
So also, God has done all this in the church, so that we would proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness of sin, and into the kingdom of His Son – the kingdom of the light of His goodness and grace. As His people, there is to be a verbal proclamation of the gospel to those around us. The word excellencies actually refers to His mighty works of power. Think about it – God demonstrated His mighty power in creation. He demonstrated His mighty power in His Son – raising Him from the dead and exalting Him to the highest place. He demonstrated His mighty power for us, in all that He has done for us through the work of His Son. We are supposed to proclaim that – declare that – so that people can join the race, the priesthood, the nation and declare His praises.
David once asked and answered the questions, who is God, and who is man, in writing an amazing Psalm – chapter 8. Listen to it:
1 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
David was overwhelmed by thoughts of God – and that this great God and Creator of the heavens and earth, would be mindful of us. What is man? And yet, God, the King of the universe, has chosen us. He has chosen us, made us a royal kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people for His own possession. So that we might proclaim His excellencies – His mighty works of power on our behalf – to rescue us and redeem us. For His glory and our good. You are sons and daughters of the living God – make His glory known.