INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people. This post is about the disciple’s new identity as part of “a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (See post #536 on May 27, 2022, about this same verse.)
9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10
In the first chapter of the epistle, Peter has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3), but now, in 2:9-10, the apostle is going to tell us more about our new identity in Christ. In post #536, we examined “a chosen race, a royal priesthood.” Here we look at “a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.”
A HOLY NATION
Those who have been called by God to be a royal priesthood constitute a holy nation. But before being called to salvation and into Christ’s kingdom, we were quite a despicable lot. The Bible has nothing good or noble to say about the heart and behavior of unsaved man. Without Christ, our “heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Our sins are as scarlet (Isaiah 1:18), and we “have given ourselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Eph. 4:19). The Bible declares that natural men are “inventors of evil” (Romans 1:30), that they are “disobedient, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3) and that, were we able to scan the entire spectrum of all mankind, we would find “there is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Peter describes the former life of the very people who received this letter as “pursuing a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3). But if this appalling list of moral corruption describes the former life of these people, how can Peter now call them “a holy nation?” What could bring about such a seismic change?
These people are now a holy nation because they have met and trusted in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Through natural means, it is impossible for “the Ethiopian to change his skin or the leopard his spots” (Jer. 13:23), and “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin,” but “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). Jesus Christ has the power to deliver us from the power of sin. These former slaves of sin were freed from sin and became slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18). As slaves of righteousness, they desire to be holy, and because Jesus has set them free from sin’s power, they are able to be holy.
Peter had experienced Jesus’ power to deliver from sin firsthand. The Scriptures tell us of the day when Simon Peter was washing his fishing nets by the Sea of Galilee. After teaching the people, Jesus told Peter to “Put out into the deep water and let your nets down for a catch” (Luke 5:4). When their nets were filled to the breaking point with fish, “Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” In that instant, Peter realized that Jesus was a holy Man and that he himself was not. In Jesus’ holy presence, Peter the sinner fell before Him and confessed his own moral bankruptcy. But instead of Jesus going away from Peter, He accepted Peter’s confession as repentance and attached him to His band of disciples. In that moment, Peter was changed from a sinner into a member of the “holy nation.”
A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION
To understand what it means to be a “people for God’s own possession,” we need to examine both the Old Testament and New Testament contexts of this expression.
Under the old covenant established at Mount Sinai, God took the nation of Israel as His special possession. In Deuteronomy 4:20 we read:
20 “But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” – Deuteronomy 4:20
This was done for no merits of Israel, but only to make the LORD’s glory known to the nations. As the nation of Israel had been set apart to be “a holy nation,” so Israel was also chosen as the LORD’s “treasured possession” so that He could display His glory through Israel. As the LORD’s own possession, Israel enjoyed His blessing during the old covenant (although Israel’s and Judah’s disobedience eventually led to both nations being destroyed by the LORD’s appointed conquerors). In this way, the chosen physical nation of Israel under the old covenant serves as a “type” of what was to come with the new covenant.
When there is an Old Testament “type” (or “foreshadow”), there will also be a New Testament fulfillment. The nation of Israel was God’s old covenant possession, but since the old covenant has become obsolete (Hebrews 8:13) and Jesus Christ has inaugurated the new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20), there now exists a new covenant people for God’s own possession. Israel was the “type” or the “foreshadow,” but the fulfillment of the type is made up of all the people whom God has called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). In Titus 2:14, Paul writes of this new people:
14 (Jesus) who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. – Titus 2:14
With the coming of the new covenant, all those whom Christ has redeemed from every lawless deed have become “a people for His own possession.” Now there is no longer a physical people from a single nation but there are people from every tribe and tongue who are being gathered together in Christ to make up a people for God’s own possession. This people will be God’s forever possession, to proclaim His glory here on earth and then for eternity to sing His infinite praise. Through His own possession, God will be glorified.
We have now reviewed the four components of the disciple’s new identity. In the next post, we will consider the disciple’s new purpose.
SDG rmb 6/16/2022 #544