Sermon “The Christian’s True Identity” audio link http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23575548/1105221Peter2.mp3
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
I’d like to read verses 9-10 of 1 Peter 2 again. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” With these words Peter lays out the Christian’s true identity and purpose. I’d like to unpack the ideas in this passage a little bit today. Maybe it will help us all as we continue through the week. May the Lord help us to see what we really are in his sight.
First off, though, I’m afraid I have to say something about wrong teaching I’ve heard. You’ve probably heard this passage preached before. Maybe someone has told you something that goes like this. Here God calls us to be his chosen people. We are to live like we are chosen. We are to lay hold of his promises and live like kings and priests before him. We need to trust in his promise and see that we are wealthy, powerful, and holy. Once we start looking at ourselves that way, he’ll make us to be that way. This will be God’s best for you. It’s his desire, and he will do it in us if we only start acting in accordance with his command for us to be kings and priests.
There’s something really popular about this kind of teaching. It has a warmth to it. It gives us something to hold onto. It sounds hopeful. It really gives me a hope that God will do something in my life, if only I start having the kind of faith he requires. But there are a few things wrong with this way of looking at this passage. If we think about it carefully, it doesn’t give us the kind of hope that God wants us to have. Let’s see why.
To do that, first we have to look at grammar just a little bit. There are three basic types of sentences we need to understand. Some of them are sentences we call “indicative,” some are called “imperative,” and some are what we call “subjunctive.” An indicative sentence makes a description. It indicates what’s going on in the real world. It’s a descriptive sentence. It tells about reality. The imperative sentence makes a command. It tells us to do something. The subjunctive sentence is used to show what we could or should do. It shows a possibility or a result of some other action.
Let’s see what we see in this passage. “You are a chosen race...” That’s indicative, isn’t it. It describes reality. It doesn’t command anything. It doesn’t show possibility. It’s a description. Now, “that you may proclaim...” That’s one of those subjunctives. It’s the result of our being the chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, God’s possession. It isn’t a command. It’s a description of a result. We look at verse ten and see that it’s describing reality. Another indicative sentence.
Did we see a command in this passage? No. Not at all. There’s nothing God is commanding us to do here. Nothing at all. He’s describing what we are, then what we normally do, then what we are again. And his description of what we do isn’t a command, it’s just describing what we do by nature. All this that Peter tells us about is by God’s activity, God’s will. It isn’t based on what we do or how well we obey. It’s God’s mercy at work. And that’s really good news. Maybe I don’t believe so well. Maybe I don’t follow Christ as well as I’d like. Maybe I don’t pray as much or as fervently as I should. Maybe if I think I do really well I ought to repent and ask God to forgive me of lying to myself. But this picture of what we are is not based on how well we obey. It’s based on God’s favor for us. Salvation is of the Lord, not us. And that’s real hope.
So what are we, as created in Christ? We are chosen in Christ. We’re a new creation, a new race, we have a new nature, recreated in Christ.
What does it mean to be a royal priesthood? Think of the power and authority of royalty. Think of the noble position anyone called “his” or “her royal highness” has. These are people who can command other people. They are people who have sovereignty. They are able to exercise their power for good or for evil, often without much to stop them. Now take a sovereign and make him a priest. What does a priest do? The priest comes before God on behalf of the people. He makes sacrifices. He prays. He enables people in their worship, giving them access to God. When God sees us as a royal priesthood we are people of power, authority, and a noble position of service. We are those who can come boldly before God’s throne on behalf of other people. We are people who can expect our prayers to be answered. We are people who can be looked to for wisdom, spiritual advice, for counsel, for protection. Does this seem like a big responsibility? It is. But this is not something God is commanding us to do. It is something our Lord says we are. And as we have been called out in the Name and authority of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can trust that he will give us all the resources we need. He will walk with us, enabling us in our study, in our prayers, giving us his desires, making us the people he has decreed us to be. We are a royal priesthood.
We are also a holy nation. In Christ we are made citizens of heaven. We have divine protection. We have been granted amnesty, pardon from sin. We are partakers of eternal life. We are promised that we will live in the resurrection and never have pain, sickness, hunger, thirst, or sorrow of any sort. We are under God’s protection and cannot be cast out of his kingdom. We do not have to worry about our citizenship, because our Lord has decreed us to be citizens of heaven. He has given us the nature of his people, the nature of his Son, cleansing us and fitting us for fellowship with him in eternity. We are a holy nation, not subject to the boundaries and distinctions that our earthly nations have. We don’t have to be afraid of class distinctions. We don’t have to worry about national origins. We don’t have to worry about skin color. We don’t have to worry about any of that. All who believe on Jesus are made citizens of one holy nation, the kingdom of God.
We see also we are God’s possession. When he claims us in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in baptism, when he creates belief in our hearts in the triune God, when he forgives us our sins in his triune name, when he lays his blessing on us, again using a trinitarian formula, we see that God is laying claim to us. We are not our own. We are adopted into Christ’s kingdom. We are made co-heirs with Christ in eternity. We are adopted as sons of the heavenly Father. And I use the term “sons” on purpose. Throughout history, daughters have not received inheritances. Sons have. God adopts his people as sons. We receive an inheritance from our Lord, whose wealth never runs out. We are heirs of God in Christ. He owns us and reserves the right to pour out his blessing without limit upon us. And as adopted sons, he doesn’t give blessing by compulsion, like he would pay someone who is hired. He gives blessing because he wants to. God sees us. He knows us and our nature. And he pours out his blessing on us because we have been adopted in his perfect blameless Son.
So what’s the purpose of all this? What do we end up doing as a result of God’s activity? We proclaim God’s excellency. We proclaim the praises of him. What has he done? What are his promises? This is what shows in our lives. This is what shows in our attitudes. We receive the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Do we think that isn’t visible? We have a deep-seated joy in our savior even in difficult times. Do we think we can hide it? I know some of us try, but really we shouldn’t bother. The Christian naturally reflects Christ. Sometimes we seem to reflect a distorted image of him. All right, we always seem to reflect a distorted image of our Savior. But in our very being, since we are recreated in Christ, we reflect his person.
How has our Lord proved up on his promises? Do we need some sort of evidence that we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s possession, with a special purpose? Consider just that our Lord has called us, while we were yet sinners, dying for us. He redeems us, purchasing our forgiveness, that which we could not and would not do ourselves. He adopts us into his kingdom, into his family, giving us all the love and care that a father gives his child. He shows his mercy on us, daily pouring out blessing after blessing on us, his people.
This is really good news. It isn’t about what we can do. It isn’t about what we earn. It is about what Jesus is doing in and through us.
Let us pray.
Our Lord, you have chosen us. You have called us out of darkness into your marvellous light. Let us walk in you. Let us delight in you. May the world see your glory reflected in your people, that they may also become partakers of your glory, for you, the Light of the World, ever live and reign from glory to glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.