The breathtaking vision in the opening verses of chapter 2, especially verses 9 and 10, declare us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s special possession, a people who have received mercy. In short, we are the baptized new creation with eyes wide open. Now, Peter pushes the implications: If this is who we are, then what are our priorities? How do we live within this new world under Christ, governed by His Spirit?
Right away Peter gets to business. Once the Christian understands who they really are within God’s great world-changing purposes, it is vital to learn to live appropriately in keeping with the reality of having been repossessed by God. This is the bit which needs to be pressed upon the preacher’s auditors, namely, maintaining the idea of really owning who they are in Christ. That is why the church, why 2.4 billion or more baptized persons out there, look so, well, non-Christian. The baptized have not owned the indicatives about their identity and so the imperatives are turn-offs. So, Peter offers a refresher on the Christian’s fundamental identity in Christ and under the Spirit.
“You are a chosen race.” Chosen for what, first of all? Chosen to join the throng in the great exodus movement out of bondage to sinful selfishness and inordinate self-love and captivity to today’s stifling philosophies and blinding ideologies that divide, dehumanize, and denominate. You have been chosen to come out of the darkness and into this marvelous light, the light of the Resurrection. You are a people who constitute an exodus from racism, sexism, elitism, classism and now participate in a new race of human beings who are, through baptism, the foundational cure for the evils of these things in human society. We recognize no race, no wealth, no class, no status and no demographic. We have no political parties. We have a King. Leave the darkness of division and haughty, judgmental partisanship and enter a world in which we see human beings through their being shrouded by a vail of holy baptism, notwithstanding their wallet or waistline, pigmentation or place.
Leave the darkness of division and haughty, judgmental partisanship and enter a world in which we see human beings through their being shrouded by a vail of holy baptism, notwithstanding their wallet or waistline, pigmentation or place.
Peter further describes his readers as a, “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s special possession,” language taken directly from Exodus 19:5-6. Peter uses these words because we have a different Lord, not Caesar, and we live in His Kingdom differently than we otherwise would if Caesar owned us and we were captive to that futile world, the world of modern geopolitics. We are not who and what we are because of political allegiances to Dems, the GOP, Green or Libertarians. They are not the hope of the world. They do not liberate. King Jesus does. Our hope, our present, our future is in Him. Live in that light and do so like royalty.
“You are a royal priesthood.” Even though you have a priesthood, just as the royal priesthood of national Israel had a specific priesthood who ministered the grace of God to them, nevertheless, you are a royal priesthood which ministers outside of the Office of Holy Ministry. The ancient priesthood was sanctified and set apart from the people at large for their ministry to Yahweh to whom they had special access. Peter now declares similarly that collectively Christian believers—in the vocations in which they presently work—are to perform the same priestly function of embodying the grace of God with respect to your family, neighbors, and coworkers. By obedience to the New Covenant, a Covenant consisting of you being indwelt and motivated by the Holy Spirit of God, you are to be sanctified and set apart from the peoples of the world; not in isolation or quarantine, but in witness to the Truth and the joy and propriety of living life in step with the Holy Spirit of God, the rule of Christ, and the Father’s way of mercy and grace. This is how the baptized in Christ are to live.
Peter says to all the baptized, ‘You have a King, and therefore, you must exercise allegiance to the King. Allegiance consists, first and foremost, in trusting the King and receiving His gifts. What is your first priority? Honoring the King with faith by receiving His grace and mercy. This honors Him. In fact, it is worship, the highest form of worship. Allegiance next consists of obedience, not so much to the Law—from that and its curse you have been freed—but obedience to the Spirit of God given to you in holy baptism. This is the same Spirit who illumines the will and ways of God in Holy Scripture. You are to operate by a higher law, higher than the Law but not contrary to the Law. Here Peter refers to the Christian operating by grace, godliness, truth, peace and love. These things are to be manifest in the people of Christ. They are the priorities. They are all about cultivating a spirit of love to God and our neighbors as ourselves. That is how we are to live.
Against such things and about such things there are no laws. There is no salary cap to generosity, no limits to your loving one another, no overkill to faith and devotion to Christ, no boundary to beauty and fidelity. We have no rules other than be ruled by the Spirit. So, when Peter speaks in verses 11-17, he is not saying there is anything wrong with food, drink or sex in themselves. God has sanctified everything for its proper time and place: sex for marriage, food sanctified by prayer and the Word of God, and drink to make merry. But if you are like me, then it would seem we have desires that, left to themselves, would lead us into all sorts of stupid and dehumanizing places. We too often leave the voice of the Spirit squelched and our fundamental identity as a chosen race lost to amnesia. Self-control is vital. It is, in fact, the Fruit of the Spirit and without it, or truer to form, forgetting it and neglecting it, you are led into bouts of temporary insanity which overwhelm your true identity.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in I Peter 2:19-25.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach I Peter 2:19-25.