A People for His Possession
“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.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
One thing true of every human being is that we need an identity. We need to know who we are and who we belong to. This is where our family, or hometown, or school we attended provides a certain level of belonging. I think this is part of the appeal of sports teams. Watch a Manchester United soccer game or an Alabama football game or a NASCAR race. We sometimes laugh at people’s devotion to a sports team but it’s real. People are in search of belonging to something or somebody.
All of this is about relationship. Human beings must have relationship and we crave relationship with someone or something greater than ourselves. In a sense, we are all that 7th grade boy in the cafeteria looking for a table to sit at. We want to belong. We want to be accepted.
Where do you belong? What would those who know you say is your identity group? Perhaps an easy way to find out is to ask your family what they would write in your obituary. He was all about this. It can be almost anything. I see this at funerals where they adorn the casket with the things the individual cared about—a picture of their dog; a Harley hat. Our identities are the things that we look to that make us feel our lives matter.
The curse for humans is that all the identities we come up with are temporary and so disappointing. Right Cubs fans? In the end, even the most meaningful—family and marriage—we don’t get to keep. Death separates us from our identities and our belongings.
If only there was something to belong to that time and death won’t take away from us. Something to rejoice in more than your favorite team winning the championship every year. Better than the joy of your child being successful or the contentment of a satisfying marriage. Peter essentially quotes Exodus 19 and lists four blessed and enduring identities that every Christian enjoys.
A Chosen Race
“But you are a chosen race.” We hear chosen and we think that says something about our worth. God chose us. This was part of Israel’s stumbling. They thought God chose Abraham and them because of them. They thought it said something about them. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you.” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8) God’s choosing of Israel didn’t say anything about Israel, it said everything about God. He loved them because he loved them. God set his love upon them because it is God’s nature to love.
Peter says to us in the New Covenant, we are God’s chosen people, elected before the foundation of the world. This doesn’t say anything more about our worth or lovability than it did Israel’s. It says everything about God’s amazing love that chose to love sinners and save us. He created a new people group. The result is that we are a chosen people.
A Royal Priesthood
Priests in Israel were allowed to draw near to God. They ministered in the holy place. They had access to God. We are a royal priesthood. We are not royalty, but like priests who are allowed near to the King. We are allowed near to God, to offer spiritual sacrifices “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are the King’s priests and he bids us near.
“Just as believers are a new spiritual race and a new spiritual priesthood, so they are a new spiritual nation which is based now neither on ethnic identity nor geographical boundaries but rather on allegiance to their heavenly King, Jesus Christ, who is truly King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).” (Wayne Grudem, The First Epistle of Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 111.)
Don’t miss the radical nature of this. This nation of God has no ethnic distinction. Jew. Gentile. Asian. Caucasian. Latino. Black. All are welcome into this new nation. We don’t immigrate. We don’t need to apply to get in. Citizenship is completely by faith and allegiance to Jesus as Savior and Lord. We are faith citizens of a holy nation.
“A people for his own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9)
This word “possession” refers to a practice of the ancient Kings of the East. They would keep a special treasure box or chest of gold that was separate from the official funds of state or the royal treasury. This gold was not for roads or swords or ships but for their own use. This was their personal treasure. Their personal possession.
Peter says we are to God a people of personal possession; a personal treasure to God. We belong to him. He loves us.
- “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
- “(Jesus)…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)
We were bought with a price. God paid it. Jesus’ blood paid the ransom. Now we belong to him legally and spiritually.
Take these as a whole: Chosen and holy nation. Priests of the King. Prized by God himself. Think of what this would have meant for these exiles. They felt like men without a country. They didn’t belong anywhere. They had lost all their worldly identities. They had lost their geographical identity. Family identities. They are far from everything familiar.
Peter encourages them to realize their true and exalted status; and us as well. We are not who our feelings say we are. We are not who our circumstances say we are. We are not who our pain and trials say we are. Who are we? We are God’s chosen and prized possession. A people of his own. We belong to Almighty God and he has made us citizens of the only nation that will endure time, the chosen nation of God.
How important it is that we refuse to make our earthly identities our ultimate identities. Why? All of them disappear.
- Make your identity husband or wife, then death or divorce comes.
- Make your identity your children, then their rebellion shatters you.
- Make your money your identity, then a recession destroys you.
- Make your health or looks your identity, and the creeping signs of age will depress you.
All our earthly identities are fleeting and we are always that 7th grade boy in the cafeteria. Where can I sit? Where can I belong? Who cares for me? God shouts to his people, I do! Come near as priest. Sit at my table as citizen. Sit near me as beloved son or daughter. Know you are my treasure and you will be forever.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2015 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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