1 Peter 2:9 (Part 3) – Identity: holy nation, God’s possession

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.)

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

The prominence of prayer in the new covenant – Part 2

INTRODUCTION. The new covenant, which was announced in Jeremiah 31:31-34, inaugurated by the Lord Jesus on the night that He was betrayed, and established by Jesus’ death on the cross, differed dramatically from the old covenant, which had been in effect since the Fall and which the LORD formalized when He gave the Law on Sinai. The old covenant was a covenant of works whose purpose was to bring the awareness of personal sin (Romans 3:20) and of sin’s corresponding condemnation (Romans 5:16a), while the new covenant brings with it forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7) and imputed righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

Not only do these two covenants differ in their purposes, but they also differ dramatically in the day-to-day practices of each covenant. One of the most apparent ways that the new covenant differs from the old is in the area of prayer.

Post #483 (January 13, 2022) examined prayer under the old covenant, while this post (#484) examines prayer in the new covenant.

First, we examined prayer under the old covenant and saw that prayer was rare because few people knew the LORD.

AND IN THE NEW COVENANT?

The previous comments (Post #483) were focused on the old covenant. As we turn to the new covenant, we ask the question, “Has anything changed?” Well, some things have not changed. In the new covenant, as under the old, it is still true that those who know the Lord, pray to the Lord, and those who do not know the Lord do not. This is an immense truth. In fact, this can serve as a diagnostic tool to determine spiritual health and even to assess whether or not someone is a genuine follower of Jesus. A feeble or nonexistent prayer life may very well indicate a nonexistent relationship with Jesus Christ, even for a person who claims to be a Christian, even for a person who regularly goes to a church. But in the new covenant, this truth has not changed: “Those who know the Lord, pray to the Lord, and those who do not know the Lord do not.”

But with the coming of the Lord Jesus and the new covenant, everything else related to prayer has changed, and changed dramatically. In the new covenant, prayer becomes prominent, even primary in the life of the individual believer and in the life of the church. One of the major features of Jesus’ earthly ministry was His time spent in prayer. Since Jesus prayed, all His disciples should pray. In fact, on more than one occasion, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. So, in contrast to the old covenant and the Law, there is explicit instruction on prayer in the New Testament and there are many examples of prayer. The New Testament epistles are full of prayers to guide the disciple in their own conversations with the Lord.

We also see that every believer is commanded to pray. A few examples will suffice. Paul charges every believer to “Pray without ceasing” in 1 Thess. 5:17. No comment needs to be made on that verse, does it? In Ephesians 6:19, again the apostle Paul directs his readers to “pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and petition for all the saints.” Prayer saturates the life of the new covenant believer and the worship of the new covenant church. Since the new covenant church is made up of those who know the Lord (Jeremiah 31:33), the church should be a place of prayer (Matthew 21:13). This is different from the old covenant temple, which was not a place of prayer, but a place of sacrifice.

Consider this for a moment. The Law of the old covenant loomed over the temple and demanded the blood of sacrifices to hold back the wrath of God. But in the new covenant, the final sacrifice has been offered and the wrath of God has been quenched (Romans 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 5:7). The Law’s demands have been satisfied (Romans 8:4) and the wages of sin have been fully paid (John 19:30). The believer has now been reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Romans 5:8-11) and fear of judgment has been nailed to the cross. The veil of the temple that intentionally separated sinful man from holy God has been ripped in two from top to bottom to show that God now dwells with His people; indeed, God, by His Holy Spirit, now dwells in His people! Now God’s people know Him because He indwells them (Ephesians 1:13-14). And as we stated before, those who know the Lord, pray to the Lord.

As we examine the contents of the book of Acts, we see that prayer is prominent in the early church. In Acts 1:14, the apostles are “devoting themselves to prayer.” In 2:42, they were continually devoting themselves to the prayers.” A bold prayer to God is prayed in 4:24-31 that results in the place being shaken. In Acts 6:4, the apostles select deacons so that they can “devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” In Acts 8:15, Peter and John come down to Samaria from Jerusalem and “prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.” There is no need to go through the entire book to see that prayer was central to every aspect of the New Testament church. And why was that so? The new covenant believer prays because he gets to pray! The believer is invited to come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). In Ephesians 3:12, Paul reminds all believers that “in Christ we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” Paul is here referring to access to God through prayer, because he follows this up with, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father” (Eph. 3:14), as he begins another prayer. Again, prayer is the very heartbeat of the new covenant because conversation with his God is the privilege of every member of the new covenant church. Prayer is the rule, rather than to rare exception.

The new covenant believer has been invited to pray to the Lord of the universe any time he wants. Let us be those who pray intimately and often.

SDG                 rmb                 1/16/2022                   #484

The prominence of prayer in the new covenant

INTRODUCTION. The new covenant, which was announced in Jeremiah 31:31-34, inaugurated by the Lord Jesus on the night that He was betrayed, and established by Jesus’ death on the cross, was wholly different from the old covenant, which had been in effect since the Fall and which the LORD formalized when He gave the Law on Sinai. These two covenants differ in their forms and in their foundations. The old covenant was a covenant of works whose purpose was to bring the awareness of personal sin (Romans 3:20) and of sin’s corresponding condemnation (Romans 5:16a), while the new covenant brings with it forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7) and imputed righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

Not only do these two covenants differ in their purposes, but they also differ dramatically in the day-to-day practices of each covenant. One of the most apparent ways that the new covenant differs from the old is in the area of prayer.

These next two posts will consider the practice of prayer in the old and new covenants, show how they are dramatically different, and give reasons why they are different.

First, we will examine prayer under the old covenant.

UNDER THE OLD COVENANT, PRAYER WAS RARE

The first observation is that “Under the old covenant, PRAYER WAS RARE.” Most prayer in the Old Testament was limited to the prophet or the priest or the king. When the people needed to hear from the LORD, they would usually go to a prophet or perhaps to a priest, but there is little evidence in the Old Testament that the average Hebrew prayed directly to the LORD. Also, in the Law, there was no command to pray and there was no instruction on prayer, so the typical Israelite was not expected to pray.

WHY WAS THERE LIMITED PRAYER UNDER THE OLD COVENANT?

There are reasons for this paucity of prayer under the Law, though. Under the old covenant, the LORD was perceived as distant and unapproachable. At Sinai with the giving of the Law of condemnation, the LORD had appeared in billowing smoke and blazing fire and thunder and the loud blaring of a trumpet. Then, in the temple, the LORD was behind the veil in the inner holy of holies and could be approached only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and even then, only by the high priest with the shed blood of an animal. The old covenant was dominated by the Law, and under the Law, God was a consuming fire. Men do not have the courage to approach or to pray to the consuming fire.

The result is that, for the Israelite who saw God as a God of judgment and as the God of the Law, there was no need to pray. God required obedience to the Law. That was clear. If I failed to obey the Law, there was a just recompence. The Law was black and white. So, why would I bother to pray and for what would I pray? The Law required me to perform, not to pray. And so, the people of Israel and Judah rarely prayed.

BUT THERE WERE THOSE WHO PRAYED

There were those, however, who lived during the time of the Law who prayed, even prayed fervently and frequently. In the Psalms we see David and Asaph and the sons of Korah and others pouring out their heart to the LORD in intimate, emotional prayers. These prayers are raw and powerful as the psalmist gives unhindered voice to the deepest feelings and secrets of his heart. We see the same thing when we look to the prayers of Hannah and Jacob, the prayers of Daniel and Habakkuk, the prayers of Hezekiah and Jeremiah. These prayers have passion and heat, and they display none of the fear engendered by the Law. The ones who pray to the LORD in the Old Testament pray to One whom they know intimately, whom they know to be gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Those who pray, pray to the LORD because they know the LORD. There is certainly the fear of reverent awe, the sense of approaching One of unimaginable power and holiness and glory, but there is no fear of judgment or condemnation or retribution. The feelings of awe are consumed not by the fire of judgment but by the immensity of His everlasting love. And so, the one who prayed to the LORD as Redeemer and Savior during the old covenant did not pray from the Law, but they prayed from the love of God that had been given to them by grace.

What are we saying? Those who know the LORD, pray, and those who do not know the LORD do not. We are saying that those who know the LORD long to pour out their heart before Him in prayer. In the old covenant, those who knew the LORD as their Savior and their Redeemer, as their rock and refuge and strong tower; those who knew the LORD as their God of salvation, prayed to the LORD. And those who did not know the LORD, but had merely heard of the God of Israel, the God of Sinai, the God of the Law, these did not pray to the LORD. And, from what we read in the Old Testament, the great majority of people fell into this latter category. Since few people knew the LORD, few people prayed.

In the next post, we will take a look at prayer in the new covenant and begin to see how prayer is different between the covenants and why.

SDG                 rmb                 1/13/2022                   #483