#31 A PEOPLE BELONGING TO GOD

In 1Peter 2:9 Peter describes Christians as:

‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.’

This is very similar to Exodus 19:5-6, where God tells the Israelites whom he has just delivered from slavery in Egypt, that this is what they have the potential to be:

‘Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

For the Israelites this was only a possibility, conditional on their keeping the covenant [verse 5].

It had already become obvious that in those 2.3 million people there were only a few who had true faith in God.

Although God had worked on their behalf, overcome Pharaoh’s opposition, and brought them out of Egypt they cowered in fear as they stood on the banks of the Red Sea, as the Egyptian army came nearer and nearer [Exodus 14:10-14].

Although God brought them miraculously through the Red Sea and then destroyed the Egyptian army in that sea, they grumbled when they were thirsty [15:24; 17:1-7], and they grumbled when they were hungry [16:1-12], despising their recent deliverance by God’s almighty hand.

In both of these they would, they said, rather be back in Egypt, they would rather be slaves.

Then before long, it became even more obvious:

Although God, in the plagues of Egypt had demonstrated the powerlessness of the gods of Egypt, yet the people yearned for gods they could see, and so made for themselves gods made of gold and worshipped them, praising these man-made gods for their deliverance from Egypt [Exodus 32:1-8].

And later again:

Only Caleb and Joshua believed God and were ready to enter the promised land [Numbers 14:6-9].

In all of this the nation as a whole demonstrated that they did not believe in the one true God. Their hearts and minds did not align with God and with the covenant. And this failure remained throughout their history. While the nation was always God’s chosen nation through whom he revealed his saving purpose, and out of whom the Messiah came, there were always only a small number within the nation who had genuine, saving faith in God.

And this raises the question: how can Peter say with such confidence that his readers are ‘a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God’? How can he be so confident, when all God could say of the Israelites was ‘If ...’ - ‘If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession ... a kingdom of priests, a holy nation’.

Peter’s confident affirmation is not based on human ability to remain faithful but on God’s ability to save and keep saved. We have already seen that Peter is writing to people who:

Have been sanctified (set apart for God) by the Holy Spirit [1:2].
Have been sprinkled (cleansed from guilt) by the blood of Christ [1:2].
Have been given new birth through the resurrection of Christ [1:3].
Have a salvation that is imperishable and secure, guarded by God [1:4].
And are themselves shielded by God’s power [1:5].

Peter’s certainty about the genuineness and endurance of real Christian faith is grounded solely in the truth that God is at work. If a person really believes in Jesus Christ that faith has its origin in God and that faith will remain. If it does not remain it did not have its origin in God.

Revelation affirms a certainty similar to that expressed by Peter:

That Jesus Christ has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father [1:5,6; 5:9,10].

As Revelation points out: the certainty depends not on the worthiness of the believer but on the worthiness of Jesus Christ. Because Christ is who he is and has done what he did, those who truly believe in him are now, and always will be, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018