“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” I Peter 2:9
Previous to our text, Peter has identified a group of people that have come-up lame in their fickle pursuit of truth; “them which stumble at the word, being disobedient” (vs.8). In verse 7, this group is marked by their disbelief of the message and their disapproval of the Master. That same hostile attitude of disbelief and disapproval is also manifested toward the family of God. This should come as no surprise to us for Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20). As a means of further enlightenment, He would follow with a word of caution; “In the world ye shall have tribulation” as well as a word of comfort; “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” in John 16:33. God knows that it is necessary that we know our opposition; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
While it is necessary to know our opposition, it is imperative to know ourselves! Having an understanding of this truth, Peter followed his description of the religious, with a description of the righteous; “But ye are.” When considering the words of Peter, it is important to be mindful of not only our standing, but its season! Peter did not say that “ye will be”, but “ye are.” This is present tense; right now! Many Christian live frustrated lives all because they are trying to gain by works what has already been given by grace! Our commitment to the precepts and principles that set us apart from those that know not Christ is not for the purpose of earning, but for enlightenment; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” Jesus reinforces this thought in the Sermon on the Mount; “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The disciple’s purpose for shining is not that he can become light, but rather because he is light; “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
We should know who we are so that we can put into practice what we are in principle! It would do us good to pause and meditate on that thought for a while; for if the world fails to see in practice what we are in principle, the world remains blinded to the “Excellencies of our God.” Peter speaks of four specific areas that should be made manifest in the lives of the redeemed. The first thing to be noticed is redemption, “But ye are a chosen generation.” The word “chosen” means select, favorite, elect. The word “generation” means kin, countryman, kindred, offspring or stock and it comes from a word meaning to come into being. Those about us should know immediately that we are from another country and we belong to another family. Because of the complete and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may be in the world, but we are not of the world (see John 17:14&16). If they knew us previous to salvation, they should know that a transformation has taken place.
The second thing to be noticed is royalty, “But ye are . . . a royal priesthood.” The word “royal” means to be kingly in nature and the word “priesthood” means priestly fraternity. We belong to an elite group; we are children of “KING OF KINGS, AND Lord OF Lord S” (Revelation 19:16). Paul reminds us that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). This is not some arrogant self-righteous pride that was often displayed by the Pharisees, but it is conscious awareness that “we are ambassadors for Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20) and we should conduct ourselves in such a manner as becoming to His representative.
The third thing to be noticed is race, “But ye are . . . an holy nation.” The word “holy” means sacred, morally blameless, pure or consecrated. The word “nation” means a race, a tribe, especially a foreign tribe usually non-Jewish. In addition to seeing our nature, they should be made aware of our number! We are not just descendents of a righteous Father, but we have been birthed into a righteous family; we now make-up a race of people who hold a residency out of this world. Peter said, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11).
Finally, they are to notice our resolve, “But ye are . . . a peculiar people.” The word “peculiar” comes from two words one means to or into and indicates the point reached or entered. The other word means acquisition as the act or the thing being acquired, a purchased possession. The word “people” means people in general. Barnes rendered the term “a people for a possession.” Because we are the purchased possession of God, we are resolved to live like it! Writing to the believers at Corinth, Paul said, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Once we know who we are, we are better equipped to put into practice what we are in principle. When this is accomplished, the Lord Jesus Christ is lifted up and given the preeminence; thus drawing all men unto Himself.