Although to the outside observer there appears to be no real change when a man or woman comes to Christ, within the converted soul there are seismic, foundational changes that alter every part of that person. For just as sin had previously grown and poisoned and infected all of their life, now the new life in Christ will begin to sanctify and purify. Light has shone into darkness, and thus light will begin to shine out of what was darkness. There may be no better pair of verses than 1 Peter 2:9-10 to show what has taken place as the believer has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
NEW KINGDOM: In coming to Christ, the believer has joined the great cloud (Hebrews 12:1) of those who have been captured by the Lord and bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Regardless of how wretched your past was, you are now part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9a). All the stains and shames of your past are cast away (Psalm 103:12) and abolished. The blood of Jesus has made you a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20-21), a holy king-priest forever, held in God’s righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10; John 10:28-30).
MISSION: Before you came to faith in Christ, you had no real mission in life. Oh, you may have had some goals and some ambitions, but you had no God-given purpose. Since man is made to seek out a purpose, you did the best you could to find some direction or accomplishment that would justify your existence (Harold Abrams, running rival to Eric Liddell: “Ten lonely seconds to justify my entire existence.”), but in the end all man-made purposes, however grand or compelling, remain hauntingly hollow. For the man or woman outside Christ, there is no answer to the “why” question. The more we accomplish down these artificial paths to self-glory, the emptier we feel.
But then Christ invades! Repentance and faith lead to a bowing of the knee to Christ as Lord of my life and with His lordship comes a glorious mission that is context-independent. Now I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and I am His herald. Now I have been called to Jesus “so that I may proclaim the excellencies” of my great Savior, and I will continue this mission till the end of my earthly pilgrimage and then forever in heaven with the Lord.
FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT: Prior to our faith in Christ, we were stumbling in the darkness. Our minds and our mouths and our hearts were darkened by sin. Our pleasures were perverse, and our imaginings were stained with lust and wickedness.
But now we walk in the light with Christ. Having been cleansed by the blood of Christ we now joyously live in His holy light. The shameful things we used to do in the darkness have been vanquished by repentance and now we run into the light and pursue righteousness and obedience.
FROM NOT A PEOPLE TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD: Before I was an orphan amidst a throng of strangers. Although we shared a common humanity with others, there was nothing that truly bound us together. Where was love to be found? Did anyone care for me? I was completely alone on the earth and any success or even survival was up to me and fell crushingly on my shoulders. Who would share my joy? Who would share my pain? Who would love me and care about me?
“For once you were not a people . . . (1 Peter 2:10a)”
“For my father and my mother have forsaken me . . . (Psalm 27:10)”
“There is no one who regards me; there is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul.” – Psalm 142:4.
Alone. On my own. Part of a mongrel people. Orphan. Refugee. Alienated from God.
“But now you are the people of God” (1 Peter 2:10).
In Christ I have become part of an elect multitude that will be gathered into heaven from all time and will be gathered from all nations (Revelation 7:9). Jesus Christ is my Brother (Matthew 12:48-50) and God is my Father. I am part of an eternal family that is commanded to love one another. All members of the people of God still on earth have a fellowship with one another that is sealed and enriched by the Spirit of the living God. I am now part of a people beloved by God (Colossians 3:13) and a people who love one another in the Spirit of God as we together glorify Christ and encourage one another in love.
MERCY HAS COME: This is the greatest news and also the most difficult to explain. Before I knew Christ, I was under the judgment and wrath of God because of my sin. God is a holy God and His holiness and justice required my condemnation and I was excluded from mercy. And what is mercy? Mercy is not getting the punishment I deserve. In my case, however, God’s justice, which is expressed in His Law, effectively prevented God from extending mercy to me, for God, by His law has obligated Himself to punish all sin. If He ignored the law and gave me mercy and forgave my sins without exacting the punishment for those sins, then God Himself would violate His own word and would Himself become a transgressor. Legally giving mercy to a sinner and thus removing condemnation and wrath from that sinner necessitates that the sin be removed from that sinner.
But here in 1 Peter 2:10, the Scripture says, “but now you have received mercy.” All followers of Jesus have received mercy. Now it is appropriate to ask the question, “How is that legal?” It is a violation of the Law to forgive those who are guilty, and believers are self-confessed guilty sinners. By His Law, God must punish the guilty or else their sins are without consequence and without recompense. If “the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20),” then mercy for the sinner is unlawful. So how is this not so? How can it be that God’s mercy is not a transgression of His Law?
Here then is the amazing news of the gospel. God can lawfully grant mercy to the one who has faith in Jesus because Jesus Christ has died on the cross for all repentant sinners who trust in Jesus’ name. There has been a great exchange. When I placed my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, all my sin and unrighteousness was transferred onto Jesus to be nailed to the cross and all of His perfect righteousness was transferred to my account so that I can stand before God on judgment day.
Thus God can pour out His mercy on me because He has already poured out His wrath on His Son. The wrath I deserved was propitiated by the death of Christ and now I can lawfully receive God’s mercy.
“You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:10b
Peter, then, in these two verses speaks of a new kingdom, a new mission, being called from darkness into light, of once being estranged and orphaned and now being the people of God, of once being under wrath and of now receiving God’s mercy. Hallelujah!
SDG rmb 3/28/2018