September 11, 2016

Who We Are Together (I Peter 2:9)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Body Topic: I Peter Scripture: 1 Peter 2:9

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The Essentials

Who We are Together
I Peter 2:9
(One Body: You Shall Be My People)
September 11th, 2016


I. Representing in Rio

For those of you who did not grow up playing sports, and for those of us who still do not consider ourselves athletic in any way, shape, or form, the following exercise (no pun intended), the exercise I'd like to recommend might be a real stretch (again, no pun intended). Ready? Here it is: rewind a couple of months and imagine you are a top notch, high caliber athlete and have qualified to be on the U.S. Olympic team heading to Rio.

That's right, you will be representing the United States of America on what may be the biggest international stage in history. When you walk into an arena, you will be wearing our national colors. When you step up to the starting line or block, “America” will be announced along with your name. And if and when you medal, the national anthem of the U.S.A. will be played as our flag is raised up; all because of your efforts.

Now stop for a minute and think about that reality. Would you feel any pressure, or maybe you would see it as 'motivation', to represent our nation well? Would being part of that team, in light of that team's identity, compel you to be careful and thoughtful about your behavior and interviews and attitude? Would being part of that team motivate you to give 110% in terms of performance?

Keep those issues in mind and turn over to I Peter 2. This morning we are continuing our year-long journey through what we call our Four Essentials, those foundational and formative biblical beliefs that help us to be healthy, well-balanced followers of Jesus.


II. The Passage: “A People Belonging to God” (2:9)

I Peter 2, verse 9, was shared with us at the outset of our time together this morning, but let's look at again as we eagerly listen for what God wants to teach us about being part of One Body. Listen as I read...

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. (I Peter 2:9)

It's not a long verse, but it has plenty to say about who we are together, doesn't it? If you look at that verse and think about breaking it down into related sections, what seems to go together? When I look at verse 9, I see three parts to this stunning statement about who we are together: 1) I see Peter telling us about our distinguishing marks, 2) I see him reminding us about our mission, and finally 3), I hear him pointing us back to our motivation. Let's look at those one at a time and use the context to help understand what is being said.

1. Our Marks (2:9a)

First of all, look at the marks or titles Peter uses to describe who we are together. He gives us four titles in this one verse. Now, I think it's fair to say that for many people, the word “church” conjures up images of a building or of a Sunday service or maybe even of a group of people, something akin to a community organization. But consider how God, through Peter, elevates our thinking about this One Body Scripture calls the church:

First, Peter declares we are a Chosen Race. The issue of race has been a renewed and ongoing topic of conversation in our country for some time now. From police shootings and government policies to immigration and entertainment, many people are wrestling with how we see one another and what it means to be a multi-racial society in the 21st Century.

But as important as those conversations are, for us, they must be informed by, and in the end, placed behind the more ultimate reality that our race as Christians transcends earthly classifications of race. There is no reason not to cherish what is good in our racial and culture heritages. But Peter made this declaration to his readers in the previous chapter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... (I Peter 1:3)

As God's chosen race, before anything else and above anything else, we must trace our spiritual genealogies back to the new birth made possible by our Father's grace. But look there's more...

As a race of Christians, we are also, second, a Royal Priesthood. As with Israel, in most cultures, the portion of any ethnic group that belonged to the priestly class or priestly order was or is very small. But when it comes to our people, every single one of us belongs to a priesthood designed by God himself. Do you think of yourself as a priest? The word itself probably trips us up. Many people can't get the image of an old guy in a clerical collar out of their minds.

So what does it mean that we are priests? Well, look at how the context helps us here. Look with me at verses 4 and 5 of this same chapter. We read there:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, [5] you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

All of these images paint for us a picture of spiritual worship, don’t they? Strangely, but wonderfully, we are both the temple and the priests, and through Jesus we have access to God; we have the ability to bring spiritual sacrifices to Him. What are these spiritual sacrifices? Paul speaks of offering our bodies up as a living sacrifice in Romans 12. Hebrews 13 speaks of “praise” and of “doing good to others” as sacrifices.

Whatever Peter has in mind, these sacrifices are simply a way of describing our spiritual worship as God’s people; worship that Jesus described in John 4 as “worshiping in Spirit and in truth”.

But Peter continues in the first part of verse 9. He goes on to describe us a Holy Nation. If the word “race” focus on connection based on descent, on family connections, the word “nation” might focus on our place in the midst of the many other nations that surround us. As Americans we have a national identity. In a similar way, as Christians, we should also have a kind of national identity.

This in fact is where we connect back to the word “royal” in the previous title, “a royal priesthood”. How is our nation as disciples governed? We are a kingdom! We serve, we are led by one King: Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And as the third title explicitly indicates, we are a “holy nation”. In the midst of many nations, of many communities and groups of people, we are holy, or in plain language, we are set apart. Look at how Peter explains it a couple of verses later in 2:11-12:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. [12] Keep your conduct among the Gentiles (literally, “the nations”) honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (I Peter 2:11-12)

This is part of what it means to be priests in our families, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We stand between people and God in order to represent Him to them by living distinct lives, distinct in love and loyalty and service and purity.

But there's a final description here, another description of who we are together. Not only are we a chosen race, and a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, but we are “a people for God's own possession”, that is, we are a people belonging to God.

None of these other titles makes sense, none of these other realities are even possible if God has not intervened to make us His people. This is what the next verse tells us, 2:10... 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.

We belong to Him because, as Peter puts it in 1:18, 19, we have been “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”


2. Our Mission (2:9b)

But I Peter 2:9 continues. Peter moves from how God has marked us as His own, and goes on to describe our mission as this new people. God has chosen us and ordained us and leads us, He has made us His own in order that “we may proclaim [His] excellencies”.

This word “excellencies” is a Greek word of deep significance. Aretae was the moral excellence that so many of the Greek philosopher believed was the chief goal and pinnacle of human life. When used of God, it speaks of His moral perfection and incomparable attributes, the very traits that make God...God. He is the “everlasting God” (Is. 40:28) & worthy of praise!

Why has God ransomed us? That we would make it clear to everyone, through our words, our actions, our priorities, our virtues, that God is supremely good and great and gracious.
Look again at verses 11 and 12...Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. [12] Keep your conduct among the Gentiles (literally, “the nations”) honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

The question we have to ask in light of this is, “Can those in my circle see how good and great and gracious God is through my life, through my actions, attitude, and priorities?” Do they hear about how excellent God is through our praise and expressions of gratitude?


3. Our Motive (2:9c)

But maybe an even more fundamental question is a question about what motivates us. It's a question answered by the very last part of I Peter 2:9. Listen to it 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. (I Peter 2:9)

What motivates us to proclaim God's excellencies in the midst of a noisy, turbulent, hostile, fallen world? The fact that God has rescued us. The fact He has delivered us...ransomed us...liberated us...saved us. The language Peter uses here reminds me of how Paul expressed the same idea in Colossians 1:12-14...

[Paul speaks of] giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. [13] He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, [14] in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Are you grateful for what God has done in your life? There is a radical contrast between darkness and light, isn't there? Do you see that radical contrast in terms of your condition before God's grace, and your condition, your position now? Does that contrast fuel your gratefulness, and does that gratefulness in turn motivate you to live in the reality of who we are together? And for our mission as His people?


III. From Sinai to Buckeye

Brothers and sisters, through this verse, God is giving us an amazing picture of who we are together. And that perspective should affect us deeply. But there's another aspect to what God has revealed to us through Peter. It's an aspect that wonderfully takes us from Sinai to Buckeye.

Listen to the opening verses of Exodus 19. The nation of Israel has just escaped from bondage in Egypt and now stands at the foot of Mount Sinai, looking to Moses for his continued leadership. Now listen carefully and tell me if any of this sounds familiar. This is what we read, beginning in verse 3...

The LORD called to [Moses] out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: [4] ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. [5] Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all 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 people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:3b-6)

Did you hear that? The very words which Peter applied to his predominantly non-Jewish readers, the very words that Peter used to describe who are together as the church, those words were drawn from God's description of who the nation Israel was called to be as God's people.

And it is precisely that distinction that explains the connection here. God has always been forming a people for Himself. It began with Abraham, became clearer with the descendants of Abraham's grandson, Israel, and has reached it's fulfillment in the Church, a community of Jews and non-Jews who are Abraham's children through faith. Talk about exploding our small thinking when it comes to that word church!

Think about it; think about that amazing fact: if you are follower of Jesus, then God's design as revealed at Sinai has been fulfilled in you and you and you, and specifically, in US, in who we are together. I appreciate when Jewish people speak of the Old Testament with pride and say, “this is the story of my people”. But in an even more important way, we can make the same confession: the Bible is our story; the story of God's people. We should feel an even deeper sense of satisfaction and heritage and responsibility in light of it.

Do you read the Bible with that mindset?

Having taken an even closer look at I Peter 2:9, I think it becomes clear that Peter was speaking directly to these believers about who they were together; and through him, God is speaking to us about who are together. Peter's goal was not to minimize cultural, socio-economic, ethnic, or racial distinctions, or any good thing these people appreciated about their identity. Instead, his goal was to elevate their thinking.

Beyond black, white, and brown, beyond lower, middle, and upper class, beyond Republican, Democrat, and independent, beyond American, foreigner, and immigrant, beyond male and female, young and old, we are...a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. Above everything else, that is what must define who we are together.

Did you know of the 550 athletes who went to Rio as part of the U.S. Team, almost 50 were born outside the U.S. Some came to the U.S. as children. Some became citizens in the last several years. But what they all have in common are two distinctions, they once were not, but now are...Americans, AND, they represented our country on the global stage that is the Olympic games.

Sounds a little like our story, doesn't it? You are a representative of a holy nation on the stage of this community and wherever God has you. You are on God's team. Shouldn't being part of that team, in light of that team's identity, compel you to be careful and thoughtful about your behavior and words and attitude? Shouldn't being part of that team motivate you to give 110% in the service of God, on the mission of God? Let's pray for that very mindset and for our everyday lives as God's people in light of I Peter 2:9.

other sermons in this series

Jul 9


Jun 11


May 14